By: Marc Immanuel

Originally published on: 25 January 2017
Last updated on: 14 May 2018

GEOGRAPHICAL DEFINITION OF “AMERICA” (“THE AMERICAS”)
[source: 1]

The singular noun “America (when defined in the original geographical context), or synonymously the plural form “the Americas (in the contemporary international conventional term), is a European term referring to the Continent of the Western Hemisphere (which is referred to, in this website, as the “Western Continent“).

The “Western Continent” — or “America” (“the Americas”) [European naming] — is here defined as::  ‘the collective region (including adjacent islands) of the single large continuous land mass on the planetary surface of the Western Hemisphere of our planet (relative to the International Reference Meridian)’.

The Western Continent is geographically subdivided — at the Isthmus  of Panama (now the Panama Canal) — into a northern subcontinent (called “North America“) and a southern subcontinent  (called “South America“).

In contemporary international conventional geography, the subcontinents “North America” and “South America” are defined as distinct “continents” (though, geologically, they are the northern and southern portions of a single geological continent or continuous land mass).

THE NAMING OF THE WESTERN CONTINENT, “AMERICA”
[sources: 2, 3]

Following the initial western European ”discovery” of the Western Continent by colonialist explorer and invader Christopher Columbus in 1492 (in the Gregorian calendar), the name “America” (singular) was first given to the Continent by western European cartographers in the 16th century and began to be adopted by the colonialist European authorities in the 17th century.

The Western Continent was named after the Latinized form (“Americus”) of the name of western European explorer Amerigo Vespucci.  Amerigo Vespucci is credited with the discovery that — contrary to the initial belief of Christopher Columbus — the discovered region was not the eastern subregion of the main continent of the Eastern Hemisphere (the subregion “East Asia/Eurasia” of the geological continent presently called “Afro-Eurasia“) but was a “New World” (a previously unknown continent which, when sailing in a westward direction from “Europe”, was located between “Europe” and “East Asia/Eurasia”).

During the 16th-17th centuries, the Western Continent was commonly referred to by Europeans as the ”New World” — in contradistinction to the ”Old World’‘ [referring to the ”Eastern Continent” (”Afro-Eurasia”), which was previously considered the ”World”].

THE INCORRECT ALTERATION OF THE MEANING OF “AMERICA” —
IN REFERENCE TO THE “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”

In 1776, thirteen of the colonies of the British Empire in the northern portion of “America” — “North America” — united and declared independence as the “United States of America” [USA, US]. In the following years, the United States developed as a nation-state, and its citizens began to refer to themselves, as a nationality, as “American”.

At the time, the adjective/noun “American“, for the English-speaking societies in British-occupied territory, implied: (1) as an adjective, “of, or pertaining to, the continent of America (North and South America, collectively)”, and (2) as a noun, “native-born or immigrant resident of the continent of America (North and South America, collectively)”.

But with time, the term “American“, for the English-speaking societies, began to imply: (1) as an adjective, “of, or pertaining to, the United States of America”, and (2) as a noun, “citizen of the United States of America”.

Based on that semantically incorrect meaning, the term “America“, in the English language, began to incorrectly imply, exclusively, the nation-state “United States of America” and the geographical  territory under the occupation of its states [particularly of its 48 adjoining states in “North America”, referred to as the “contiguous United States” (or “conterminous United States”).

THE 20TH CENTURY CONVENTIONAL GEOGRAPHICAL DIVISION
OF THE CONTINENT OF “AMERICA” INTO TWO “SEPARATE CONTINENTS”
(“NORTH AMERICA” AND “SOUTH AMERICA”)

In the 20th century, for the English-speaking societies of the world as well as internationally, the two geological subcontinents of the geological continent of “America” — “North America” and “South America” — began to be geographically defined as two “separate continents”.

This geographical division was supported by the artificial division of the geological continent of “America” by the US-constructed Panama Canal in 1914 (which turned the Isthmus of Panama into a canal connecting the eastern ocean of the Western Hemisphere [called the “Atlantic Ocean” (European naming)] and the western ocean of the Western Hemisphere [called the “Pacific Ocean” (European naming)].

The Panama Canal cut off the natural land continuity which previously existed between “North America” and “South America” at the Isthmus of Panama.

More information on that subject, at:
The US Seizure of Panama and Construction of the Panama Canal

THE CONVENTIONAL REPLACEMENT OF THE SINGULAR NOUN “AMERICA”
BY THE PLURAL FORM “THE AMERICAS”

Because of the aforementioned changes relating to the meaning of the term “America“, the previously singular noun “America” — as a reference to the Western Continent — was changed in international conventional use to the plural form “the Americas” (meaning: ‘North America and South America considered as a whole‘).

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR COMMUNICATION OF MEANINGS
RELATED TO THE TERMS “AMERICA” AND “AMERICAN”

Given the contemporary ambiguity of the meaning of the proper noun “America” and of the adjective/noun “American” (primarily due to the development of a secondary meaning associated exclusively with the nation-state “United States of America”), I recommend the following choices in communication:

● that, if the proper noun  “America” be used, it be used only in its original geographical meaning (as synonymous to the  plural form  “the Americas”) — in reference to the Western Continent [the collective region called “North America” and “South America” (European naming)]

● that, to be clear about the meaning, the plural form “the Americas” be chosen over the singular form “America“, when using the term to refer to the Western Continent

● that, when referring to the nation-state “United States (of America)” [USA, US], the name of the nation-state be used (instead of the traditional European name of the Western Continent — “America“)

● that, when referring to the collective  territory  under occupation of the 48 adjoining US states and Washington, DC,  in the northern subcontinent of the Western Continent (“North America”), this collective territory be referred to in terms of the “contiguous United States” (or “continental United States” if including the territory of the 49th US state of Alaska)

● that, when using an adjective with the meaning, “of, or pertaining to, the United States (of America)”, the name of the nation-state, “United States” (or abbreviation, “USA/US”), or the combined term, “United States American” (or abbreviation “USA/US American“), be used as an adjective, instead of the adjective “American”

● that, when using a noun to refer to a “citizen of the United States (of America)”, the term “United States citizen” (or abbreviation, “USA/US citizen“) or the term “United States American” (or abbreviation, “USA/US American“) be used, instead of the noun “American”

____________________________________________________________

SOURCES OF INFORMATION
(Internet)

1. “America” (“the Americas”),
Oxford Dictionaries (English), definition
2. “Naming of the Americas“,
Wikipedia, volunteer-written encyclopedia, article (historical)
3. “American (Word)“,
Wikipedia, volunteer-written encyclopedia, article (semantic)
4. “What Does American Actually Mean?“,
The Atlantic, article (semantic), by Karina Martinez Carter, 19 June 2013
5. “Panama Canal“,
Wikipedia, volunteer-written encyclopedia, article (historical)

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 A PROPOSAL FOR THE RENAMING OF “AMERICA”
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Home Page:

CRIMES OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT:
From the Trail of Tears
to the Invasion of Iraq

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