Celebrating Earth Day

Posted by David Eicher
on Monday, April 25, 2011

You know, I noticed on the calendar when I came into work on Friday that April 22 was Earth Day. That’s great, and I fully support Earth as a good planet and a nice place to be. Sure beats the chills you would get on Mars, the trouble you would have breathing on Mercury, or the scorched hellfire that would consume you on Venus. And bringing attention to good causes is pretty fine, too, as long as it’s not a manufactured process, as it usually is, to sell greeting cards or solicit cash. The process does get carried away: Every marginal cause or event, every Tom, Dick, and Harry, wants its own day. Pretty soon we’ll see the “International Blueberry or Similarly-Flavored Fruit Waffles Commemoration Day.” Geez.

NASA
But as I say, Earth is a good cause. What people want when they promote Earth Day is, of course, “taking care of Earth and not trashing it completely so that we can still live here for millions of years to come.” The planet itself couldn’t care less. Trust me, any planet that has been through the late-heavy bombardment, with millions of meteoroids crashing into it nearly constantly for eons, doesn’t care if there’s a little plastic flying around the highways.

I digress. The real purpose of pointing out Earth Day, for me, is to congratulate its founders. They got it right. Not only is their collective heart in the right place, but they also got the terminology right — something few people care enough to do these days.

Just so we all know together, the planet you are standing on is indeed Earth. It is not, never will be, and never has been, the Earth. I hear even large numbers of planetary scientists making this strange mistake. Why? You wouldn’t call Saturn the Saturn, would you? Same rules, same nomenclature. There’s no the Mercury, the Jupiter, or the Mars. Not even the Pluto. (Oh, wait, it‘s not even a planet anymore.) So please take one lesson away from Earth Day. Never catch yourself saying, “The Earth is such a lovely place tonight, honey.” If you do, that small number of people who really care about language, wherever they are, will collectively cringe.

And remember that language likes to throw you curveballs. There’s no the Earth, but the real and proper name of our satellite most certainly is the Moon.

Tags: Planets
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