Yes, it's quite odd that Americans continue to celebrate Christopher Columbus Day, revering a conquistador who never even set foot on the mainland North American continent as "The man who discovered America." While I can certainly understand those who want to celebrate their Italian heritage, there are other, better ways to do that, too, considering that DNA evidence suggests Columbus may not have even been Italian after all.
Much has been written and said (and rightly so) about Columbus's true legacy as a pillager, rapist, and imperial killer. But not enough attention is paid to the etymological travesties he committed, which still persist to this day.
First, there's Costa Rica — "The Rich Coast," so named by Columbus for its wealth of gold. Upon his initial journey, Columbus claimed to have seen "more gold in two days than in four years in Española."
Except there was no gold in what was now known as Costa Rica. Some experts think he just saw bananas.
And then there's the issue of "cannibal." When Columbus encountered indigenous people in the Caribbean, there were some who called themselves "Caribs." Upon hearing them refer to themselves as such, Columbus went through several leaps of logic and/or bad hearing, according to the Online Etymological Dictionary. When they said "Carib," Columbus heard "Canib," which he took as an indication that they were all descended from Genghis Khan, thus proving that he had in fact reached Asia by sailing westward across the Atlantic. This further mutated into "cannibal" when Columbus wrote about his unproven fears that some of the native people might eat them. He never witnessed this happening, of course; but he decided it was not out of the realm of possibility, and thus, he dubbed the act of people-eating after these descendents of Khan who were not in fact descendents of Khan because Columbus was a moron.
Columbus also "discovered" manatees, and thought they were mermaids, lamenting that they were, "not half as beautiful as they are painted."
Remind me why anyone celebrates this man again?