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Old 02-24-2013, 02:59 PM   #16
Ralph Sir Edward
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I'll throw in my two cent's worth...(but I want my change back.)

In writing Science Fiction, there was always a perceived problem with these names of distinguishing the local usage (earth=dirt) versus a planet name, the moon (circling the Earth) from a generic moon, the star warming Earth from just another G0 star. In stories strictly set without interstellar travel, the local vs. generic problem could be ignored, but for stories with interstellar travel as part of it, some nomenclature had to be decided on to be able to separately distinguish the local usage from the generic.

Example, if I live on a planet circling Tau Ceti, a G5 star 11 light years away, what am I going to call the star the planet revolves around, Tau Ceti, or "the sun". I want a word that means "big warm glowing thing in the sky", wherever the sky is, on "Earth" or some other planet. Tau Ceti might do, but some further star whose name is just a string of stellar catalog numbers? Certainly not for everyday "the <start catalog number 574863>" certainly is hot today while I'm plowing" usage.

The same holds for Earth and the Moon. You need a formal name, separate from the generic, for precise usage. That's what those science fiction writers were doing.

Now as to Tellus versus Terra. The inventor of Space Opera, E.E. Smith PH. D., always used Tellus, or even more formally SOL III (3rd planet out from Sol). However, by the 1950's science fiction was embarrassed by those old space operas, (see the Literary Snob thread) and didn't want their (striving to be literarially accepted) writing to be associated with that old horrible pulp stuff. So they used Terra instead for the same definition....
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Old 02-24-2013, 03:10 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Edward M. Grant View Post
Naming gets confusing otherwise, because every alien race calls their planet 'Dirt' or 'Ground' or some other kind of variant on 'Earth'.
A fan of Nick Pollatta and Phil Phoglio, are you?

There's a discussion of this issue here:

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PlanetTerra

The short answer: because it sounds cooler than "Earth" and is used in more than one language.
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Old 02-24-2013, 03:13 PM   #18
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I wonder what aliens call earth? Assuming they have visited us in the past, and observed the destructiveness of the human race, perhaps they might have codenamed us: TBD (to be destroyed), or SFE (Scheduled for Extinction)?

Moon is too generic to be just Terra's moon (what about Jupiter's moons), and Earth is equally generic, meaning soil or land, among other things.

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=earth
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Old 02-24-2013, 04:03 PM   #19
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I wonder what aliens call earth? Assuming they have visited us in the past, and observed the destructiveness of the human race, perhaps they might have codenamed us: TBD (to be destroyed), or SFE (Scheduled for Extinction)?
Board rules prevent me from repeating the term
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Old 02-24-2013, 05:14 PM   #20
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I had never thought about it before, but I guess earth, moon and sun ar English, whereas terra, luna and sol are Latin, and therefore more international. And more sciency.

If you're telling an alien species the name of your world, it seems like you ought to pick something that speakers of other languages are happy with.
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Old 02-24-2013, 05:48 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ralph Sir Edward View Post
The inventor of Space Opera, E.E. Smith PH. D., always used Tellus, or even more formally SOL III (3rd planet out from Sol). However, by the 1950s science fiction was embarrassed by those old space operas (see the Literary Snob thread) and didn't want their (striving to be literarially accepted) writing to be associated with that old horrible pulp stuff. So they used Terra instead for the same definition.
The idea that writers changed the Earth's name from an exact one to a kind of end(r)earment in order to distinguish themselves reads like a synopsis of the history of slang.
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Old 02-24-2013, 05:49 PM   #22
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Late to the party. I think Ralph Sir Edward covered everything I was going to say. I never had a problem with it -- even as a pre-teen getting stated with SF paperbacks, "Terra" sounded right.
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Old 02-24-2013, 06:12 PM   #23
Ralph Sir Edward
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Prestidigitweeze View Post
The idea that writers changed the Earth's name from an exact one to a kind of end(r)earment in order to distinguish themselves reads like a synopsis of the history of slang.
Creating new slang has always been part and parcel to science fiction....
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Old 02-24-2013, 06:16 PM   #24
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Creating new slang has always been part and parcel to science fiction....
Grok and frak come easily to mind.
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Old 02-24-2013, 06:18 PM   #25
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Creating new slang has always been part and parcel to science fiction....
Clearly. Sans authors' neologisms, it drove contemporary fiction, too, until agencies like William Morris became so adept at the rapid transmission of trends to ad campaign creators that street slang could no longer remain the territory of addicts and the writer with an ear.
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Old 02-24-2013, 08:04 PM   #26
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Even scientists don't always use etymologically correct words, though. For same strange reason, the correct adjective relating to Venus, "Venereal", seems to be rarely used by planetary scientists, with the horrible "Venusian" being favoured instead.
There's always Cytherian.
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Old 02-24-2013, 09:53 PM   #27
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As an aside, I've never known any astronomers, so it's nice to think that this thread has made me aware of an erstwhile astronomer and astronomy teacher in one go.

I feel crowded now.
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Old 02-25-2013, 09:58 AM   #28
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A fan of Nick Pollatta and Phil Phoglio, are you?
Never heard of them. I have a feeling Harry Harrison pointed that out in one of his Stainless Steel Rat novels many years ago, but he might have got the idea from someone else.
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Old 02-25-2013, 10:51 AM   #29
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I always thought they were doing it just for the coolness. It makes Earth sound different, like it's not the same Earth we live on but changed in some way, which in Sci-Fi is often the case, even if that change is one of politics or ethics or...

Another thought that just occurred whilst writing the above, with Terra, you get to call people who come from there Terrans, but Earthlings which I assume is the equivalent for Earth, sounds rather cheesy imo. Granted you could just say Humans, but then that's not identifying the place of origin if you assume we've spread out across the galaxy.

Harry: I've often heard Astronomers use the term Lunar to talk about the Moon, never heard the term Luna although I suppose it would be hard to distinguish from a pronunciation only. Frequently hear Lunar mentioned anytime the topic is the surface of the moon though.

As for the Sun, outside of games and Sci-Fi books which do use Sol, I've only ever heard our sun referred to as the Sun. Not saying that's always the case, just the frequent one for me.

Caleb: Add another Amateur Astronomy to your list then. Well, Amateur may be too strong a word, but certainly hobbyist of many years

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Old 02-25-2013, 10:53 AM   #30
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It's by no means universal. Calling Earth "Terra" is less common than using "Terran" as a adjective for someone or something of Earth. Earthling just didn't cut it.
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