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  • When I say the word 'America', what does that mean to you? If, like me, your native language

  • is English this might seem like an obvious question. America is right here, the country.

  • However, some people would strongly disagree with this: particularly those from South America.

  • To South Americans, America is not a country but a continent.

  • This is America, right here. While English speakers would say those are 2 continents

  • - North America and South America (collectively 'The Americas'), Spanish and Portuguese speakers

  • refer to it as one continent: America. Of course it's not just South Americans who

  • view the continents this way. France also agrees on the six-continent view of world.

  • This can be seen by the 5 rings of the Olympics, which represents the 5 inhabited continents

  • of the world (ie - not Antarctica). Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and America.

  • And recently I've been seen a lot of arguing over this very issue in the comments section.

  • For starters, how about we look at the history of the Americas and where the name 'America'

  • actually came from. So, as we all know, Christopher Columbus discovered

  • America in 1492... right? Well, no, actually. People had been living on the American continents

  • for more than 10,000 years before Columbus supposedly 'discovered' them.

  • Historians believe that earliest settlers in the Americas walked from Asia during the

  • last ice when Alaska and Siberia were connected by a land bridge, before splitting into separate

  • continents. So for thousands of years there were people

  • living in Europe and people were living in the Americas, but neither people knew about

  • the other. Europe, Africa and Asia, or if you prefer

  • - Afro-Eurasia, the supercontinent, was thought of as the whole world, which can be seen from

  • early world maps. OK, so Christopher Columbus didn't "discover"

  • America, but he was the first European there, right? Well, once again, no, actually. Icelandic

  • vikings settled on the east coast of Canada in what is today Newfoundland, nearly 500

  • years before the voyages of Columbus. It's ironic, the 2 things Christopher Columbus

  • is famous for, discovering America and being the first to suggest the Earth was round,

  • both have one thing key thing is common... they're not actually true.

  • It was suggested the Earth was round as early as the 6th century BC, by Pythagoras. And

  • later studied Plato and Aristotle. All educated people of Columbus' time knew the Earth was

  • round and not flat. The circumference of the Earth is around 40,000

  • kilometres, and this was known by people in Columbus' time, because it was calculated

  • around 240 BC, with surprising accuracy. However, Columbus was convinced that the Earth

  • was much smaller than this and when he set out on his first voyage, he wasn't trying

  • to discover new land but to find a better trade route to India because the current land

  • route had become more difficult due to the rise of the Ottoman Empire.

  • He thought he could sail west from Spain and reach India in just a few weeks, thus avoiding

  • the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. People didn't doubt Columbus because they

  • thought the Earth was flat, but because they knew the actual size of the Earth and knew

  • India was too far away to sail to. Had the Americas not existed, Columbus and

  • his team would've died long before getting anywhere near Asia as they'd have run out

  • of supplies. 5 weeks after setting off for India, his team

  • reach the Bahamas. However, instead of realising he was in previously unknown land, Columbus

  • thought he had arrived in Japan. He also explored Cuba which is assumed was China.

  • Columbus named the Caribbean islands the 'West Indies' since he thought he was near India.

  • The Bahamas was already occupied by indigenous people, which Columbus referred to as 'Indians'.

  • This is why Native Americans are also called 'American-Indians' even though they're not

  • actually from India, but because Columbus incorrectly referred to indigenous peoples

  • of the Americas as 'Indians' and the name just sort-of stuck.

  • While Christopher Columbus may not have discovered the Americas, nor was he the first European

  • there. But what he was the first to do was to bring the Americas to the attention of

  • Europe, which lead to the European colonization of the Americas, albeit thinking he had been

  • to East Asia. He died in 1506 never realising where he had actually been.

  • Between 1497 and 1504, Amerigo Vespucci made several voyages to the West Indies and South

  • America, and correctly concluded that it was not east Asia, but a previously unknown continent,

  • which he referred to as the New World, while Afro-Eurasia was therefore the Old World.

  • The New World was thought of as the 4th continent, though little was known about North America

  • at this point. The first ever use of the word 'America' was

  • in 1507 by a German cartographer who named the new continent America after Amerigo Vespucci

  • who was the first to recognise it as a new continent.

  • In his world map, he depicted South America and small parts of Central America with the

  • word 'America' written on South America. This is why South Americans may be offended

  • by the use of the word 'America' to mean the USA, since its earliest usage was used to

  • refer to just South America. Amerigo Vespucci died in 1512 never knowing

  • that an entire continent was named after him. As time went on, and more and more of the

  • American continent was explored, world maps began to evolve. In 1527, South America was

  • shaping up nicely while the east coast of North America was starting to take shape.

  • Although there was no use if the word America in this map.

  • This was the first map to use America to refer to North America as well as South America.

  • At first glance it's hard to see what's going on. But if you tilt your head to the left

  • you can see all the continents. By 1569 the world was starting to look right,

  • although this map also has no mention of America, and the Americas are labelled 'India Nova'

  • - or 'New Indies'. And in one of the many, many written Latin words, which some wonderful

  • human-being has translated into English, the cartographer refers to 3 distinct continents:

  • the Old World, which he didn't specifically name but simply referred to as the place where

  • "the human race was created and whence it spread, by multiplying over all the face of

  • the earth"; the New Indies; and the "Southern parts" - ie, Antarctica.

  • 1 year later and this map was published. Unsure of what to call the Americas, the cartographer

  • simply opted writing "America or New Indies", not sure on what the general consensus was

  • when referring to the New World. In 1595, the name America still hadn't stuck,

  • but this was the first world map to have different colours for the continents. And America (or

  • the New Indies) are both yellow and therefore considered as one.

  • Fast forward to 1606 and a very significant map in American history as this was the first

  • map to have North America and South America, and for the first time were considered 2 separate

  • continents. Here we can see the words "AMERICA SEPTENTRIONALIS"

  • which is Latin for, well... North America. Then we can see "AMERICA MERIDIONALIS", which

  • means... well I'll let you figure that one out.

  • By 1794 we had what is possibly the first accurate world map. North America and South

  • America had now been clearly established as 2 separate continents as they're now shown

  • in different colours. So, the term America was originally used for

  • just South America, then both the Americas, but then was split into North and South America.

  • Although many countries around the world prefer the original meaning and still view America

  • as one continent. In Spanish, the country in question can really

  • only be referred to by one name: los Estatod Unidos, Spanish for "the Untied States". While

  • in English there are several ways to refer to the country, the most common of which is

  • 'America'. I can understand why South Americans may be

  • offended by this, but I think there seems to be some misconception the US are naming

  • themselves after a continent, and they think no-one else matters and that's really not

  • the case. Or that everyone who calls the country America is ignorant and again that's simply

  • not true. And this probably stems from the fact that,

  • internationally, they're not exactly the most popular country in the world.

  • But allow me to explain why I think the country is referred to as 'America'.

  • First of all, there are 35 countries in the Americas, if you include the Caribbean, and

  • only 1 of which has the word 'America' in it's name: the United States of America.

  • Although the same can't be said for "los Estatdos Unidos". South Americans referring to the

  • country this way may be considered offensive to their fellow Spanish-speaking nation, Mexico.

  • Believe it or not, Mexico's official name is: los Estados Unidos Mexicanos. Translated

  • as "the United Mexican States". It's not so bad in English since the words

  • 'united' and 'states' are split up due to the different grammatical structures of the

  • languages. But still, even though no other country in

  • the world has 'united states' in their name today, several have throughout recent history,

  • including: the United States of Belgium, the Republic

  • of the United States of Brazil, the United States of Colombia, the United States of Indonesia

  • and the United States of Venezuela. The last 2 of which only ceased to exist around 60

  • years ago. So I really don't think 'the United States'

  • is a better way to refer to the country. On top of this, the USA was the first country

  • in the Americas to become an independent nation, free from their European colonial master.

  • The 13 colonies of British America broke away from the British Empire and declared itself

  • independent in 1776 which lead to the American Revolutionary War.

  • Therefore, the 13 colonies of British America became the United States of America. So really,

  • you could blame Britain for the use of 'America' in their name.

  • However, I think the single biggest reason 'America' has become a term for the USA is

  • because of the demonym of the country. Citizens of the US are called 'Americans'.

  • And the reason for this is simply... what's the alternative? I mean seriously, what else

  • can you use? United Staters? I don't think so.

  • In English, 'American' is literally the only logical word to describe US citizens.

  • Now, in Spanish, there's no such issue, they have the word "estadounidense". And that's

  • fine... in Spanish. Unfortunately the literal translation of this is, uh... "United Statesian".

  • Which is just... so wrong on just about every level and doesn't even make grammatical sense.

  • Now, in Spanish they also have the word 'americano' which is used to refer to all people from

  • the American continent. This is where the confusion comes from,americano

  • obviously translates to 'American', but they have totally different meanings.

  • I think the only way to address this issue, is people learning a foreign language need

  • to be taught words for their correct context and not simply the literal translation, as

  • well as being taught the way the different languages views the continents.

  • Therefore, 'americano' should not translated to 'American'. Although there really isn't

  • anything it can be translated to, since there is not continent called 'America' in English.

  • Still, it's not very common to refer to where you're from as a continent. I mean, I'm from

  • Europe but never once have I referred to myself as European.

  • Although on saying that the UK does love to pretend it's not part of Europe.

  • But despite this, South Americans do consider themselves Americans, although I don't really

  • see why. If you're from, let's say, Bolivia, you should be proud of that fact you're Bolivian.

  • Because if you say you're American it implies that you're not.

  • The US aside though , there is one other country that would strongly object to the term American

  • being used to mean everyone in the Americas: Canada.

  • I can assure you if that if someone from Argentina who speaks English went to Canada and referred

  • to locals as 'Americans', the friendliest people in the world would become significantly

  • less friendly to said individual. Canadians hate being mistaken for Americans

  • and given that their accents sound similar to those not from North America, most Canadians

  • probably have been mistaken for American while abroad.

  • And unfortunately, there are some incredibly ignorant people who probably think Canada

  • is part of the USA... which I can totally sympathize with given

  • that on several occasions after saying to people I'm Scottish, they think it's part

  • of England. But I digress...

  • Although speaking of Cananda, Canada is probably the only English-speaking country that would

  • perhaps not refer to their southern neighbour as 'America' and instead opt for using "the

  • States" or "the US". While on the subject of North America, the

  • Spanish word 'notreamericano', which means 'North American', is another word Latin Americans

  • sometimes use to refer to citizens of the USA. Dictionary.com defines the word to mean

  • 'citizens or inhabitants of the US' and Urban dictionary.com says it's a 'more politically

  • correct way of saying "from the United States"'. But hold on a second, that's a little hypocritical,

  • "americano" is not an acceptable term for people from the US, but "norteamericano" is?

  • I can think of about 150 millions people who may find THAT offensive. There's more to North

  • America than just the USA. And if you're wondering why I didn't extend

  • the offensive south of Mexico, it's because North America means different things in English

  • and Spanish. In English, it's a continent, made up of 10

  • main-land countries. But in Spanish, it's a subcontinent of America consisting of just

  • Canada, the US and Mexico. Within the English and Spanish languages,

  • there really is no ambiguity at all. It's only when we speak each others' languages

  • that there becomes an issue. However, in other languages, such as German

  • and Dutch, ambiguity exists because 'Amerika' can mean both the country or the continent.

  • In German, some people use the term 'US-Americans' to refer to people from the US, to avoid ambiguity.

  • And maybe this sounds OK in German, but in English it just sounds... wrong.

  • The term 'American' is used officially used by the United Nations and is considered the

  • correct way to refer to people from the United States.

  • So... is America a country or a continent? Well, the short answer is... both. And the

  • long answer is that it really depends on what language you're speaking.

  • "America" can mean different things in different languages, in English, it can really only

  • refer to the country, whereas in some languages (such as Spainish) it can only refer to the

  • continent, and there's ambiguity in other languages as it can refer to either.

  • I think the only way to stop the arguements and ambiguity is simply... respect the language

  • you're speaking. What I mean by this is that you should adopt

  • that languages' continental view of the world and correct use of words.

  • For example, an American in South America should avoid using 'americano' to mean just

  • people from the US and definitely avoid using 'America' to mean the country they're from.

  • Likewise, South Americans should not call themselves as American when speaking English,

  • or say 'America' to refer to the continent, because in English no such continent exists.

  • So... to sum up: in English, this is America here, the country, and its people are American.

  • Shown are 2 separate continents: North America and South America, collectively the Americas,

  • plural. In Spanish, this is America here, the continent,

  • made up of 3 sub-continents: north america, central america and south america. The country

  • in question is los Estados Unidos and its people are 'estadounidense'.

  • Thanks for watching!

When I say the word 'America', what does that mean to you? If, like me, your native language

Subtitles and keywords

A2 BEG US america continent south america columbus south refer

America: Country or Continent?

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    曾珮儀   posted on 2016/06/27
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