The Crazy Reason Behind the Name:
It would be, except for the fact that, depending on whom you ask, either those letters were forgeries or Vespucci was the Renaissance explorers' answer to Thomas Edison (i.e., a lying douchebag who leeched the credit from others to bolster his own fame and fortune). Apparently even Waldseemuller had second thoughts as to the authenticity of Vespucci's (or Vespucci's forger's) story, as he removed all references to America from his later maps. By that time, though, it was too late -- other mapmakers had already adopted the name.
"Sorry, Leif Erikson, but getting your name on a globe is a marketing game."
But wait, it gets more complicated! Others theorize that the word "America" was already in common use before Waldseemuller stuck it on his map -- he just assumed that Vespucci's first name was the source of the word, when in actuality it came from "Amerrique," an Indian tribe in Nicaragua that both Columbus and Vespucci had infected and enslaved -- er, visited. Some even think that Vespucci fudged his first name from Alberico to Amerigo just to make it sound more like the common name for the New World and ensure his lasting legacy.
But wait, there's one more! Still others theorize that the name didn't come from either "Amerigo" or "Amerrique," but from Richard Amerike, a 15th century businessman who didn't discover jack shit, but who threw piles of money at other people so they'd do it on his behalf. And if you think about it, that seems like a pretty fitting ancestral origin for modern America.
Even though the proponents' points could certainly raise an eyebrow, serious historians (you know, ones with impressive beards) don't give much credence to either the "Amerrique" or the "Amerike" theory, instead sticking with the tried-and-true forger-or-asshole origin. No matter which story you buy, one thing's for certain: Damn, there sure were a lot of people whose names smacked of freedom back in the olden days.
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Related Reading: If you're more interested in the stupid stories behind your favorite songs, click here. Axl Rose recorded himself having sex for the song 'Rocket Queen'. And the true stories behind these viral images are more incredible than you'd ever believe. We've also got these hidden stories behind popular children's songs if you're into that.