The term “America”

Languagehat on “America”:

I presume we all know about the first appearance of the word America on the Waldseemüller map of 1507; what I, at any rate, didn’t know was that the text of the map and accompanying book, and hence the coining of the word, is thought to be the work of Waldseemüller’s friend Matthias Ringmann. […] I offer “How America got its name: The suprising story of an obscure scholar, an adventurer’s letter, and a pun,” a lively Boston Globe piece by Toby Lester. A sample:

The author, for example,
demonstrates a familiarity with ancient Greek, a language that Ringmann
knew well and that Waldseemüller did not. He also incorporates snatches
of classical verse, a literary tic of Ringmann’s. The one contemporary
poet quoted in the text, too, is known to have been a friend of

Waldseemüller the cartographer, Ringmann the writer: This division of
duties makes sense, given the two men’s areas of expertise. And,
indeed, they would team up in precisely this way in 1511, when
Waldseemüller printed a new map of Europe. In dedicating that map,
Waldseemüller noted that it came accompanied by “an explanatory summary
prepared by Ringmann.”

This question of authorship is important because whoever wrote “Introduction to Cosmography” almost certainly coined the name America.
Here again, I would suggest, the balance tilts in the favor of Ringmann,
who regularly entertained himself by making up words, punning in
different languages, and investing his writing with hidden meanings. In
one 1511 essay, he even mused specifically about the naming of
continents after women.


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