Sunday, March 02, 2003

Who Are We?

I had some interesting thoughts this morning. If we were suddenly pulled into a galactic community, what would we be called to our neighbors? What would we call our sun and our planet?

Sounds simple enough but wait before you answer.

Our sun, our star can be called a couple different things; Sun or Sol. Sun gets the English vote, but what about the rest of the world? Sol is the Latin name but still doesn't cover a large portion of the worlds population. What if China and India don't like those names? They certainly make up for a HUGE portion of the human population. Something to consider.

At some point, very possibly in antiquity, someone decided to name the sun after the Roman god of the sun, Sol. Seems fairly sensible to me. Going after fact here, the Oxford English Dictionary offers that in Canterbury Tales (1386), Chaucer writes "Sol gold is, and Luna silver we threpe." This would appear to be metaphorical, but the OED credits gold and silver as actual, obsolete definitions for Sol and Luna. The first cited use of Sol as the proper name for the sun is the 1450 Ashmole Manuscript Treatise on Astrology "Sol is hote & dry but not as mars is."

Our planet is just as tricky; Earth or Terra. Though I suspect this one will be much easier to agree on. I think it's pretty much universally accepted that our planets name is Earth. Terra just never really took off though it still has potential. Earth, as a word, is fairly generic as a reference to soil, rock, sand and the "stuff" that makes up our planet. An alien trying to translate the name of our planet may discover that it translates to the name of their planet because they too used the same generic term. Of course the same could be said of Terra. Anyway, that's a tangent.

The biggest issue will be what are WE called? Are we Human? Are we Earthlings? Are we Terrans?

If you take Science Fiction as a queue, then you can see that many other races use their planets name or their stars name as the basis of their race name. You have Vulcans from Vulcan and the Centauri from Alpha Centauri. If we choose Human are we throwing a wrench into the works? Will we want to be called Human and end up being called Earthlings by our alien neighbors?

This question even comes up in a different degree without aliens in the picture. What if we colonize the moon of Jupiter, Europa. Will the residents of that moon be called Europians? Or perhaps Europeans? Even spelled differently they sound very much alike. Europe, will exisit for a long time, even after all the nations of the world merge into one (it WILL happen) there will still be a European region, as there will be American and Asian ones as well. So what now? Do we group all the Jupiter colonies into one name, perhaps Jupiterranean? Sorta works, "The Lands of Jupiter", but even then the individual colonies will want their individuality, as the moons themselves are very different.

Time will tell and this arguement will never be solved in my life time. Aliens likely know we exisit and choose to let us be as we are still very much barbarians, in the grand scheme of things. It'll take a few hundred years, perhaps more, before these questions will have to be asked with any seriousness. Now they'll just be asked by geeks like me. LOL

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