Luna vs “The Moon”

Luna vs "The Moon"
Luna statue by antmoose from Rome, Italy – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, and Earth/Luna by Chinese National Space Administration Chang’e 5-T1

We need to figure out is what we’re going to call Earth’s orbital partner. Why? Because language is a tool and we should use our tools with precision. Names matter. They help create perception, which helps create reality. Politicians and advertisers know this. Space settlement enthusiasts should as well.

I contend that Earth’s only natural satellite needs to be addressed by its given name, Luna, instead of simply as “The Moon’. Here are my points.

First, let’s look at the names of some other places in the Solar system (And yes, Solar should be capitalized).

  • Sol (aka the Sun) – Latin (Sun god)
    • The Earth orbits a star named Sol. No other star is named Sol. Therefore, the Solar system is a unique, named place and should be capitalized. Star system is a generic term for any star with orbiting bodies. The Epsilon Eridani system would refer to everything within Epsilon Eridani’s sphere of influence. You get the picture.
  • Mercury – Latin (Roman god of commerce and communication)
  • Venus – Latin (Roman goddess of love and beauty)
  • Earth – Derived from old English and German words
    • However, the Latin name for the Earth is Terra. Terra was also the Roman goddess of the Earth. We are all Terrans (just like in a lot of science fiction). A standardized naming protocol provides benefits for everyone!
  • Mars – Latin (Roman god of war)
  • Jupiter – Latin (Roman king of the gods)
  • Saturn – Latin (Roman god of agriculture)
  • Uranus – Latinized Greek (Greek god of the sky)
  • Neptune – Latin (Roman god of the sea)
  • Pluto – Latinized Greek (Roman god of the afterlife)
  • Ceres – Latin (Roman goddess of agriculture and motherhood)

Do you see the pattern? All the major places in the Solar system, except Earth, have Latin names. Even the places named after Greek gods have had the names converted to Latin. Luna is the Latin name for the Earth’s natural satellite (and the Roman goddess of The Moon). We already use Luna in the words Lunar (adjective pertaining to the Moon) and lunatic (which refers to being “moonstruck” or crazy).

Second, Luna is a specific unique entity. It should be identified with a proper noun. There’s only one Paris (well, there are actually many but that’s not the point), France, and Europe. There are many moons throughout the Solar system but only one Luna. Sure, we usually capitalize “The” to represent Luna’s uniqueness (The Moon) but that’s pretty weak.

Which brings me to my third point. Right now, humanity is confined to a single planet. Humans can only see a single moon. Obviously, we want to change this otherwise I wouldn’t have written this article and you wouldn’t be reading it. We need to start laying the foundations now for this to happen. In the future humans will be living on lots of different moons. They’ll have different moons in their skies. Referring to Luna as “The Moon” is just going to cause confusion. We should get ahead of this now.

Fourth, and finally, calling Luna “The Moon” or “Earth’s moon” strongly implies that Luna belongs to Earth. And that Luna is subservient to Earth. Two concepts that future Lunar settlers will strongly disagree with. Early Lunar settlements might start out dependent on Earth for their survival but that situation won’t last long if we do things right. Luna’s location and resources should make it an economic powerhouse in the Solar system, perhaps even eclipsing Earth. In the future, we might have to worry about people calling Earth “Luna’s planet”.

Of course, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t make things unnecessarily confusing. Selenology is the study of all things Lunar. That just seems silly to me. Luna is too complex to have everything lumped into one field of study. For Lunar Homesteading purposes it’s basically Lunar geology. Anyway, Selene is the Greek goddess of The Moon. If we were trying to keep things logical, we would use lunaology (or maybe lunology) instead of selenology (ology just means “study of”) but no one does. The same problem applies to selenography as well. So, we’re stuck with using a Greek goddess to name fields of scientific study, or creating new names for these fields, or just giving up and using stuff like Lunar geology. None of these are great and I don’t have an answer. For now, Lunar Homestead is sticking with selenology because it’s easier than trying to force the acceptance of a new name.

Artemis is another Greek goddess of The Moon but her name isn’t used in anything other than potential Lunar missions. Thankfully, we can safely leave her out of this.

Of course, this is all very English-centric. Luna means “moon” in Spanish, Russian, Romanian, and Italian. However, they are not using it as a proper noun (a name used for an individual place) and they aren’t capitalizing it. It’s just “the moon”, “a moon”, “any moon”. Making Luna also function as the name of a unique place might cause some initial confusion. But maybe not. I’m not a linguist and I don’t play one on TV.

So, for the purposes of Lunar Homestead I’m going to use the name Luna (and Lunar). I’m also making Solar a proper noun as well. And I’m asking for everyone else to do the same. The future will thank us for it.

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