"The current edition of Webster's New World College Dictionary (2004) admits the mystery that surrounds the origin of the name America, saying it derives (<) from "Americus Vespucius … but < ? Sp. Amerrique … used by early explorers for the newly discovered lands < ? AmInd." No definitive conclusions can be reached. Too many claims are, for lack of hard evidence, based on speculation. Theories about the true origin of the name are ultimately historical fictions. Yet behind these fictions lie compelling views of the New World. Taken together, they form a multicultural vision of its distinctive character. To hear Americus in the name; to hear the Amerrique Mountains and their perpetual wind; to hear the African in the Mayan iq' amaq'el; to hear the Scandinavian Ommerike, as well as Amteric, and the Algonquin Em-erika; to hear Saint Emeric of Hungary; to hear Amalrich, the Gothic lord of the work ethic, and the English official, Amerike — to hear such echoes in the name of our hemisphere is to hear the wishful projections of their proponents, as well as ourselves."
JONATHAN COHEN is a poet, translator, essayist, and scholar of inter-American literature.