When America Was Almost Vespucia

May 7, 2016 | History, Satirical Essays

Published: The Good Men Project (May 7, 2016)

Did you know that America was almost called Vespucia?

I’m not referring to the United States, by the way. More than five hundred years, the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci determined that the continent “discovered” by Christopher Columbus in 1492 was not, in fact, Asia. This simple realization was apparently enough to warrant naming two continents after the man. Vespucci’s first name, “Amerigo,” was translated into the Latin “Americus,” and voila – North and South America were born.

But it wasn’t inevitable that this would be the case. In fact, it is rather unusual for a first name rather than a last one to be emblazoned on an individual’s legacy. As it turns out, this thought also occurred to the European Council which named these new worlds. Before issuing their decree, they very nearly dubbed the new continent after the man’s last name – Vespucia. Had this happened, it is fair to assume that the United States of America would be known as the United States of Vespucia. Instead of chanting “USA,” we’d chant “USV,” and instead of declaring ourselves “Proud to be an American,” we’d discuss how we’re “Proud to be Vespucians.”

Fortunately, this atrocity was averted by the assembled European powers of the early 16th century. Their reasoning was as simple as it was beautiful – Vespucia was, without question, a terrible name for a continent. ‘America’ has a magnificent ring to it, stirred the imagination – and, more to the point, the pocket books of those who might finance voyages of exploration; ‘Vespucia’ sounded like the kind of word you spit out in anger, and would hardly send the heart aflutter with anticipation. From there, poor Amerigo Vespucci had little hope of keeping his surname preserved for eternity. It was his first name, Amerigo, that would be so honored.

Vespucci himself did not take this well. Hailing from a long and honored line of maritime explorers, Vespucci had come close to realizing a dream that few of us can attain – to be immortalized. That said, while Vespucci was a last name distinct to his own line, the first name Amerigo was as common in medieval Italy as John or Michael is in America today. Letters of shrill protest were written to the Pope and to the ruling class of Florence, his native city-state. When those failed, he assembled peasants who had grown to worship him in organized protest, demanding that he not be disrespected by having the great super-continent of Vespucia taken away from him. Silly as it may seem today, it was an electric issue in the first decade of the 16th century, and the consequences remain with us now.

It is in this final paragraph that I shall identify the real purpose of my article. Everything you’ve just read is completely false. For the last four years that I’ve made my living as a writer, I’ve been frustrated at readers’ habit of only reading the first couple paragraphs of an article, then drawing their conclusions accordingly. As such, I decided to conduct a little test. Anyone who reads this from start to finish will know that none of the history contained herein is accurate. Otherwise, the hoax perpetrated upon them will be their reckoning for laziness.