Long ago I promised to follow up on a matter. Here it is.
The stars in the night sky shift position from day to day, but they generally move together, always keeping a fixed pattern. But five star-like objects, visible to the naked eye, do move across that fixed background. (A sixth, barely visible if you have exceptionally good eyes, moves too slowly to be noticed. Obviously more were found when telescopes were invented.) We call them 'planets', meaning 'wanderers'. The ancient Greeks knew of them, even without telescopes, and named them after gods, and we still know them by the Roman equivalent of these god-names.
But what was the reason to assign which god to which planet? Name the reddish one, like blood, for the war god Mars. Name the faster mover across the sky for the gods' swift messenger, Mercury. Name the two most-ponderously movers for the gods' royalty, Jupiter and his predecessor ruling god Saturn.
But why name the remaining planet for Venus, rather than some other goddess?
Some explain that it is the brightest and hence most beautiful, suitable for the goddess of beauty. But that strikes me as a thin theory, for no planet is outstandingly beautiful to the naked eye, and Venus was mostly the goddess not of beauty but of sexual love.
I have another theory. To prepare, first re-read the post here and particularly the post that follows it. As I said there, this particular planet has two "versions", morning star and evening star. First one appears for several months; then neither; then the other takes its turn; then neither; and then the cycle repeats, taking 584 days.
Now the new thought: how is that 584 days split?
Watch the sky and you'll find out the "neither appears" periods are 8 days and 50 days, and the morning star and the evening star each appear for 263 days, or a bit less than nine months. (8+263+50+263 = 584).
Seen for "263 days"? "Nine months"? Now do you see why this planet might be associated with goddess of sexual love? This message has been edited. Last edited by: wordcrafter,
I'm pretty sure that the planets were named for Sumerian or Babylonian gods and goddesses. (For example, Jupiter, Marduk, Venus, Ishtar, Saturn, Ninurta (Ninib), Mercury, Nabu (Nebo), and Mars, Nergal.) Those were later translated into their nearest equivalents in Latin and Greek. The planets were also associated with metals: Mars, iron, Venus, copper (Aphrodite, Cyprus), Moon (well the ancients considered it a planet), silver, Sun, gold.
[Fixed pesky typo.]This message has been edited. Last edited by: zmježd,
—Ceci n'est pas un seing.
I would imagine that every early culture that was aware of the planets named them for its gods.
However, the question would be which god to choose for which planet. The Romans based their choice on the Greeks' choice, simply substituting their deity-name for the Greek equivalent. Did the Greeks similarly adopt the choices the Summarians had made, or did they make their own choice?
EDIT: of course, even if the Greeks had adopted the Summerian choice to name a planet (the one we call Venus) after the goddess of womanhood, that merely changes our original question to, "Why did the Summerians choose that particular goddess?"
Jupiter, the king of the gods, happens to be the biggest of the planets. I don't believe the Greeks knew that it was the largest of the planets. Pluto, named for the god of the underworld is the darkest and coldest of the planets, but wasn't named until the 20th century.
And nowadays isn't even considered a planet.
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By whom? The majority of a quorum of some group of a couple hundred astronomers?
I deny their right to dictate the language. It may well be that their view comes into common usage, but until that has been shown to have occurred, I maintain that the previous definition is still in force.
The majority of a quorum of some group of a couple hundred astronomers?
It's the same group that decided it was a planet way back when. It doesn't really matter much to me whether Pluto is a planet, a planetoid, a rogue comet, or deplanetized satellite. It's really the same sort of thing as those transactinide elements like ununhexium. Who cares if that's its real name instead of Borisbadenovium?
—Ceci n'est pas un seing.
What the heck does that have to do with it?
Maury Maverick coined the word gobbledygook about 60 years ago. Does that give him or his heirs the right to change its meaning, after the public has picked up on it?
Nah. Once a word gets out into public use, it belongs to the public. If the public accepts the view of a gaggle of astronomers, great. Until then, astronomers-by-vote have no more linguistic authority than you or I do.
Once a word gets out into public use, it belongs to the public.
All I was saying is that a group of anybody has the right to use a word any way they wish. Of course, they always run the risk that others may not understand them or what they're talking about, but amongst themselves they'll have a more consistent vocabulary. If astronomers, doctors, or lawyers want a fixed and meaningful vocabulary, they're entitled to one, no matter what. You and I and whoever can still use of misuse Pluto or fricative to mean a planet or a vegetable omlette as we always have. This business of meaning what we say rather than what somebody says cuts both ways. That's all.
—Ceci n'est pas un seing.
I must disagree with you Wordnerd. The use of language is dictated all the time. When I was in high school, we appropriated the term "gay" to describe something that "sucks". At some point it was mandated we not use this anymore, because of giving offense to a group of people who the word is also applied. Similarly, you constantly hear talk of banning the word "nigger". Never mind who is using it, or how, or under what circumstances.
In another sense, the public will often misunderstand science, and use words incorrectly. Should scientists just let people do whatever they want? The astronomers aren't trying to tell people how to use the word planet, they are trying to come to a consensus amongst themselves, to further science. Eventually, the new usage of planet will come to be the version of the word that the public uses, starting with the current generation of school children.
Quote: "The use of language is dictated all the time. When I was in high school, ... it was mandated we not use this [word] anymore." So? Doubtless you were also prohibited from uttering the word 'f*ck'. Does that make it any less a word?
Quote: "The astronomers aren't trying to tell people how to use the word planet, they are trying to come to a consensus amongst themselves" Granting that arguendo, my response was to someone who claimed that "nowadays it isn't even considered a planet," not limiting it to the astronomological community.
Quote: "Eventually, the new usage of planet will come to be the version of the word that the public uses" Perhaps so. And if and when that happens, I will agree that that usage will be the definition of the word. My point is simply that usage, not a gaggle of astronomers, controls.
Edit: The IAU has 9,773 members. About 2,500 of them attended the conference at which the vote was taken. The resolution passed 237-157, with 17 abstentions. In other words, roughly 2% of the IAU members voted in favor.
. . .The same resolution states, "All other objects except satellites orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar-System Bodies." (That means, among other things, that the term "asteroid" should cease to exist.) Do ya think that's gonna happen? This message has been edited. Last edited by: wordnerd,
Well, I certainly think that in 50 years, only old people will consider Pluto to be a planet. As for other solar system bodies, I imagine the public will continue to use asteroid, although I'm not sure what we will call Pluto, Quaoar, and the other Kuiper Belt objects.
I think so too.
I've heard both Puerto Rico (a US territory) and Canada (a Commonwealth country) called the 51st state. Now US states are like planets: there's a fixed number of them, and a single body (the US Congress and the Senate) gets to legislate which entities are or are not States. Then there's other meanings of the word state. "What a state he's in." "An object's state is accessed via its methods." etc. I'm perfectly happy with the word's multiple meanings and the legislative branch of the US government's right to define just what a state is. (I am also reminded of an imaginary state in the territorial USA: the State of Jefferson.)
—Ceci n'est pas un seing.