etymythology for "Indian"?

Mark A Mandel mam at THEWORLD.COM
Fri Jun 14 16:58:04 UTC 2002

Having just been guilty of passing on one or possibly two apparent
etymythologies (Framingham), I would like to atone by seeking expert
opinions on what I suspect of being another. This was just posted to

    Being part Chippewa myself (mother's side), I want to toss in a gripe at
the Politically Correct term "native American".  The name "Indians" did
NOT -- as your schoolteachers glibly misinformed you -- come from Columbus
mistaking American for India.  When Columbus sailed, the country we now call
India was then called Hindustan: its people were called Hindustani, its
language Hindi, its religion Hindu.  Furthermore, enough merchants had been
there and back that the average educated European knew that the country had
great wealth and a technology only a little behind Europe's.  When Columbus
landed (on the island of Hispaniola), he took one look at these
Stone-Age-tech people -- who were friendly, simple, pious, and as naked as
Adam and Eve in the Garden -- and knew damn well that this was not
Hindustan.  He assumed that this was an outlying island, and Hindustan was
only a little further over the horizon.  As for what to call these people,
all he could come up with (in his bad Italian version of Spanish) was: "Una
gente in Dios" -- literally, "a people in God", or "a Godly people".  The
Spanish adventurers shorted the name to the last two words: In Dios.  To
this day, the Spanish word for them is "Indios".  'Twas later English
speakers who altered "Indios" to "Indians".  Frankly, there are a lot worse
things to be called that "the Godly people" -- and a PC term based on
historical ignorance is one of them.


This sounds very suspicious to me, as if someone had noticed that
"indios" could be split as "in Dios" and decided that the name had to
have arisen that way. Of course, people who accept this sort of
"obvious" explanation are not likely to be be dissuaded by expert
opinion, but I'd like to try.

-- Mark A. Mandel

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