What America Means To Me

I will reveal here a controversial assertion that is — if not explicitly denied, then most assuredly implicitly trampled upon in common practice — as deceptively and seductively simple as it seems: words actually mean something, and what they mean matters.

Note the Liberty [Phrygian] Cap on pole

I will grant the Opposition’s case that in point of fact words are useless and as often used to obscure a point as to clarify it, only to the degree to which I agree with the Opposition, which is to say not in the slightest, whatsoever. But that point about obfuscation is good, granted.

So, what does “America” mean?

Let’s start backwards, beginning with Smart Baby Names:

Heimrich \he(i)-mri-ch, heim-rich\ as a boy’s name is of Old German origin, and the meaning of Heimrich is “home ruler or power”. The source of Enrico, Enrique, Harris, Harry, Heinrich, Henry, and Amerigo.

So, “America” means “Harry”? Hunh?

Well, there’s one twist. “Amerigo” is rendered in the Latin Feminine form as “America,” which, evidently is a sexist transformation of the Latin, scholarly form that Amerigo Vespucci wrote under, because Amerigo Vespucci was … oh heck, here’s the Wikipedia entry:

[The Americas] Etymology and naming

World map of Waldseemüller, which first named America
(in the map over Paraguay), Germany, 1507

The earliest known use of the name America for this landmass dates from April 25, 1507, where it was used for what is now known as South America. It first appears on a small globe map with twelve time zones, together with the largest wall map made to date, both created by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges in France. These were the first maps to show the Americas as a land mass separate from Asia.

An accompanying book, Cosmographiae Introductio, anonymous but apparently written by Waldseemüller’s collaborator Matthias Ringmann,[25] states, “I do not see what right any one would have to object to calling this part [that is, the South American mainland], after Americus who discovered it and who is a man of intelligence, Amerigen, that is, the Land of Americus, or America: since both Europa and Asia got their names from women”.

Americus Vespucius is the Latinized version of the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci‘s name, and America is the feminine form of Americus. Amerigen is explained as Amerigo plus gen, the accusative case of the Greek word for ‘earth’, and meaning ‘land of Amerigo’.  [25]  (See etymology.)

Amerigo itself is an Italian form of the medieval Latin Emericus (see also Saint Emeric of Hungary), which through  the German form Heinrich (in EnglishHenry) derived from the Germanic name Haimirich.[26]

O. Henry short story, “The Ethics of Pig”

What’s interesting is that Vespucci never knew that the “Mundus Novus” (New World) was named after him (it continues) :

Vespucci was apparently unaware of the use of his name to refer to the new landmass, as Waldseemüller’s maps did not reach Spain until a few years after his death.[25] Ringmann may have been misled into crediting Vespucci by the widely published Soderini Letter, a sensationalized version of one of Vespucci’s actual letters reporting on the mapping of the South American coast, which glamorized his discoveries and implied that he had recognized that South America was a continent separate from Asia; in fact, it is not known what Vespucci believed on this count, and he may have died believing what Columbus had, that they had reached the East Indies in Asia rather than a new continent.[27]

Spain officially refused to accept the name America for two centuries, saying that Columbus should get credit, and Waldseemüller’s later maps, after he had ceased collaboration with Ringmann, did not include it; however, usage was established when Gerardus Mercator applied the name to the entire New World in his 1538 world map. Acceptance may have been aided by the “natural poetic counterpart” that the name America made with Asia, Africa, and Europa.[25] 

Turning over to the Wikipedia entry for Amerigo Vespucci , we find this explanation of that:

In 1508, King Ferdinand made Vespucci chief navigator of Spain at a huge salary and commissioned him to found a school of navigation, in order to standardize and modernize navigation techniques used by Iberian sea captains then exploring the world. Vespucci even developed a rudimentary, but fairly accurate method of determining longitude (which only more accurate chronometers would later improve upon).

In the 18th century three unpublished familiar letters from Vespucci to Lorenzo de’ Medici were rediscovered. One describes a voyage made in 1499-1500 which corresponds with the second of the “four voyages”. Another was written from Cape Verde in 1501 in the early part of the third of the four voyages, before crossing the Atlantic. The third letter was sent from Lisbon after the completion of that voyage.[3]

Some have suggested that Vespucci, in the two letters published in his lifetime, was exaggerating his role and constructed deliberate fabrications. However, many scholars now believe that the two letters were not written by him but were fabrications by others based in part on genuine letters by Vespucci. It was the publication and widespread circulation of the letters that might have led Martin Waldseemüller to name the new continent America on his world map of 1507 in Lorraine.

Vespucci used a Latinised form of his name, Americus Vespucius, in his Latin writings, which Waldseemüller used as a base for the new name, taking the feminine form America, according to the prevalent view … The book accompanying the map stated: “I do not see what right any one would have to object to calling this part, after Americus who discovered it and who is a man of intelligence, Amerige, that is, the Land of Americus, or America: since both Europa and Asia got their names from women”.

A typically American series of P.R. stunts and sensationalized accounts to get the name of “America.” (But still highly preferable to “Vespucciland.”)

But then, what does “America” actually mean?

OK: Americus is the Latinized version of the German

‘America’ derives from the German

Heimrich = (literally) home + ruler.


FEMALE + home + ruler

(Because Asia, Africa and Europa were women — for some reason the gender of inanimate objects was very important to people in them long ago olden days of yore.)

FEMALE + home + ruler = Mother

= Mom


America = Mom.


Thus, the United States of America would translate literally to the United States of Mom.

And that’s what “America” means to me.

Now, go clean up your room.



A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.

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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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