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 Origin of the Idea
Since I was a teenager, I have always been interested in languages. Speaking and writing correctly are issues I have been concerned about and that still today lead me to learn something new every day. Many of us may have surely wondered some time why our country bears the name with which we usually name it.
Some years ago, while I was studying Portuguese in the School of Engineering at the University of Buenos Aires, in one of the classes delivered by Sirlei, my teacher, she commented on the origin of the name "Brazil". That day I became aware that in every single country in the world people are taught about the origin of the name of their mother country. This idea was confirmed when I had the chance of meeting some people from Canada and Taiwan. They told me that during their school years, they had been explained the etymology of the name of their countries, but somehow they were not able to remember it any longer.
So, I came to the conclusion that the inhabitants of different countries have learnt some time in their school years the origin of the name of the country they live in, but as they grow older, they often forget though they can recall having been taught so. Few are the ones who can remember the etymology of the name of their country, even fewer the ones who are acquainted with those of the neighboring countries and very few the ones who claim they know those of other latitudes.
The idea of writing this book is based precisely on my curiosity to know a bit more about this issue. I have found some names particularly odd. Others were familiar, but all of them must definitely have an origin, an explanation.
I started looking for some bibliography about this and it turned out to be not a simple chore. In fact, I was not able to find any book that provided the information I needed. I occasionally came across some meanings of the names of countries in encyclopedias, but their explanations were not complete. Neither was my search satisfactory once I had finished collecting data from the Internet. There, I also became aware that there were lots of people from all over the world who had similar queries, even about their own countries. Therefore, I concluded that there was no book that defined the origin of those names. What was started off out of curiosity turned into major concern, and I finally decided to investigate the subject in a systematic way.
I found lots of stumbling blocks in the way and even some surprises because the investigation allowed me to find countries in which time had completely erased the origin of their names and there were few traces left about their meaning. This accounts for the fact that nowadays there is not a single explanation about the origin of the names of some countries and, on the other hand, many investigators concoct different hypotheses about this. Moreover, I have found it interesting to include the origin of many islands which - because of their history, importance or simply their popularity - are even more difficult to find. Of course, I could not overlook the name of the continents since in fact all countries and islands belong in one.
I once again insist that in case the reader can provide a well-founded interpretation of the origin of the name of some countries, or if he or she can find the origin of those few that have been not fully explained, he or she should send it to me and I will be glad to include it in future editions.

The book has been published in Spanish and Portuguese, in short time, it will be edited in English.

Edgardo D. Otero

El Origen de los nombres de todos los países del mundo (y de muchas de las islas que éstos poseen)
Translated from Spanish to English by
Gabriel Mohr, English Teacher
E D G A R D O   O T E R O   -   2003