Wednesday, May 25, 2011


In 1507, German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the lands of the Western Hemisphere "America" after Italian explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci. The former British colonies first used the country's modern name in the Declaration of Independence, the "unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America" adopted by the "Representatives of the united States of America" on July 4, 1776. On November 15, 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation, which states, "The Stile of this Confederacy shall be 'The United States of America.'" The Franco-American treaties of 1778 used "United States of North America", but from July 11, 1778, "United States of America" was used on the country's bills of exchange, and it has been the official name ever since.
The short form "United States" is also standard. Other common forms include the "U.S.", the "USA", and "America". Colloquial names include the "U.S. of A." and, internationally, the "States". "Columbia", a once popular name for the United States, derives from Christopher Columbus; it appears in the name "District of Columbia".
The standard way to refer to a citizen of the United States is as an "American". Though "United States" is the official appositional term, "American" and "U.S." are more commonly used to refer to the country adjectivally ("American values," "U.S. forces"). "American" is rarely used in English to refer to people not connected to the United States.
The phrase "United States" was originally treated as plural—e.g., "the United States are"—including in the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865. It became common to treat it as singular—e.g., "the United States is"—after the end of the Civil War. The singular form is now standard; the plural form is retained in the idiom "these United States".

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