Whether it's flat, round, or "going through a phase", the Earth is an ever-present part of our lives. It's always sitting there, right below us (or above, if you're Australian), and it's all we got for right now. And yet, "earth"? I don't know, people. Does that name sit right with us? Feel how your tongue curls up in disgust when you say it. "Earth". In the history of humanity, this is the best we've come up with? We can blame it on our ancestors, who were dumb, really big on rocks, and always sneaking into Neanderthal prom dances. We could blame it on the spread of Western civilization, bringing with it to, too, two, and "that's so fetch". Hell, we can get all deep and blame it on language's failure to capture the inescapable beauty of this planet. But at the end of the day, we have to come to terms with an imperfect name, and an uncertain future.
If you find yourself confused, conflicted, or repulsed by the idea that "Earth" isn't good enough for Earth, you're not alone. This isn't easy for me to write. I've grown up my entire life calling it "Earth". There were times where I even kinda liked the name. With growing up, however, sometimes we have to reckon with the fact that we used to be wrong about things. Babies are not conceived by open-mouth kissing alone and "Earth" isn't a good name. I have to live with these early failures. If you're still not convinced, keep reading. And if you are convinced, read anyway. This could be your go-to guide for winning arguments that will surely erupt around this very topic. Behold, the facts!
1. All the other planets are named after Roman Gods. Why does Earth need to be so extra?
The origins of "Earth" are unlike those of other planets. Jupiter comes from the Roman adoption of the Greek God Zeus, Mercury follows a similar path with Hermes, and Uranus just beat out Urmom in a recent internet poll. In rejection of powerful empires and multiple philosophies, Earth sets out North with a new haircut that screams, "You're not my dad!" Coming from the 8th century Anglo-Saxon term "erda", Earth basically means soil. Cool. Digging even deeper, you can find the term relates to a Norse lady-giant. Wow, so cool. Any more hipster and our planet would've picked the name "Daenerys Whole Foods Latte". There is little logical reason for this kind of specialization. If all these planets are going to circle the same star, then why should all but one get a themed name? Being unique is not enough. Our name should mean something more than "ground", especially when plenty of these planets have ground of their own. This planet isn't just about its root components. It's about us. It's about people.
2. Aliens are going to struggle with English.
Go back and read some of my old articles. Not just because I need the page views, but because, in spite of English being my primary language, I struggle. Misspellings, grammar slips, and punctuation issues that extend beyond social situations are a recurring character in my work. If someone born in an English-speaking home is going to struggle, imagine when the aliens come? In addition to pitting tier against tear and pier against peer, English is full of contradictions in structure and pronunciation. How are we going to teach Ragnath the Conqueror "ear" and "Earth" all in time to unite against the incoming Belchron invasion? It's ridiculous! Find it all hard to believe? Behold, proof in gif form!
We owe our new intergalactic neighbors an easier name than "Ee-arth". And is there a better language switch than mathematics? It may feel a tad stiff, but a collection of numbers could be exactly what we need to jettison into the 22nd century. Now, we have to be careful. The internet is primed and ready to submit 80085 and 1337, and they are tempting options. However, we can do better. Functions like the Golden Ratio are a bit heady, but this pattern is found in our nature and maybe their nature, as well. This might be too much for some, so I say we settle on 42. Everybody wins.
3. Humans are more than the mere ground below our feet.
I'm not saying we have to hold hands in one big circle around the Equator, but you have to admit: We've kinda, sorta almost made something of ourselves as a species. Recent international presidential elections and centuries of militant strife aside, we've amassed some pretty sweet accomplishments. We've touched the Moon (way better name), beaten down many forms of cancer, and eliminated the need for bread with the KFC Double Down sandwich. Why settle for a planetary name that refers to dry mud? We already mastered agriculture on Hard Mode thousands of years ago, let's step it up! We could name our planet after something a little more recent, like "F8: The Fate of the Furious" or "Tesla Roadster". I'm just spitballing here, for there are far too many options. There's nothing wrong with being proud of our past, but we also need to seize our future, and if the name sounds better in the process? So be it!
I don't have a great answer to what we should label this planet, but I don't love our current name. I'm willing to bet that a language other than English has the most perfect name for it, both in meaning and sound, but English is our unfortunate primary as a species. Maybe that will change with Mandarin as a sleeping giant, or Spanish being on a sharp rise. We could be dealing with climate change so severe that a name swap isn't that necessary as we are all absorbed by scorching heat. And yet, I have hope that we will persevere long enough to actually pick a new name. Hey, how's that for a name? "Hope". It's got a nice ring to it, and it embodies all our best moments as a civilization. Beats out a Swedish Giantess, anyways.
Joe Brueggemeyer hosts and edits The Marquee podcast with Logan, and has an unhealthy obsession with baking.