A middle school science class is learning about the solar system. “The seventh planet from the Sun,” the teacher states, “is Yur-AIN-is.” Jimmy, the class clown, seizes the opportunity and asks, “Have you ever seen your anus
with a telescope?” A smattering of giggles ensues.
From achondrite to zodiacal light, astronomy is a veritable minefield of how-do-you-say-it words. We trip over the simple two-letter name of Jupiter’s moon Io (pronounced EYE-oh or occasionally EE-oh) and fall flat on our faces as we struggle with a mile-long star name like Zubenelgenubi (zoo-BEN-el-je-NEW-bee). Is the plural of nebula NEB-yoo-lee, NEB-yoo-lie, or NEB-yoo-lay? Is M13 a GLOBE-yoo-ler cluster or a GLOB-yoo-ler cluster? Speaking proper “Astronomese” is akin to struggling with a new language, and with good reason. It is
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