I’m not an European, I’m an American, more precisely; from Mexico, unfortunately U.S.A. has snatched the name for itself, which is very annoying to me, specially after living for some time on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. I guess because some extra need to relate myself with Peruvians, Brazilians, Ecuadorians, Canadians, etc. Which I never met before in Mexico. There’s really not much to do about it, but nonetheless there’s plenty of interesting facts and conversation tidbits to explore.
Let’s start with the basics: there is actually more than one country with united states in America; the official name of Mexico is United Mexican States. Therefore, the states of Mexico are also states of America, which makes the name United States of America ambiguous; Which specific union of states are you talking about? In fact, some of these states have moved from one country to the other (Los Angeles California doesn’t sound particularity English, right?).
That leads to the main problem; the country of U.S.A doesn’t have anything distinctive about it; it’s just a bunch of land conquered by England. In the case of Mexico it was obvious. There was an empire, the Aztecs, which had a main city, Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), so in order to build a country, and assimilate the people in it, a name was chosen in relation to the main city on the area. But in the case of U.S.A, England didn’t care about the native people at all, thus it was hard to pick a name, so they chose not to, they just referred to them as the thirteen united states of America. It’s as nonspecific as Country #9 of Africa.
Some people say, oh, but there’s no such thing as an American continent, there’s North America, and there’s South America, and there’s America the country. Which is total bullshit.
First of all, America (the continent) was named after Amerigo Vespucci (Italian cartographer), whose maps were used back in Europe to create the first map of America with respect to the world (and in fact the first world map):
So if any country deserves the name America, it would be Brazil, but that would be as ambiguous and obnoxious as Germany naming itself Europe. So, no, America is a continent. The part of U.S.A, “of America”, was used to denote that the country was located very far from England, Europe, or anything familiar.
Many people prefer U.S. or “The States”, but the problem is the demonym. In Spanish it’s “estadounidense” which translates to unitedstatesian, but that probably doesn’t sound nice in many languages, thus the only option: American.
So yeah, United States of America, is a totally uninspired nonspecific name. Hopefully at some point U.S.A would stop having as much importance as it has now, and the American continent can reclaim its name 🙂