Sunday, May 20, 2012

What's In A Name

What are you? I am a Gamecock, a South Carolinian, a citizen of The United States of America, and a member of the human race! That last one, unless you're one of those super smart monkeys from Planet of the Apes (... how many of you think I don't recognize the juxtaposition of monkey and ape! come on people! you know I'm not dumb) is a description we can all claim. We are humans! And one of the defining traits of humanity is that we have, as a species if not individually, a desire to explore. A need to know what is beyond the horizon, on the other side of the wall, past the mountains and across the sea. From the day we are born (and even before if we take into account some evidence) we see, and touch, and smell, and taste, and listen to things in a never ending attempt to understand the world around us. It's only when we grow older that we decide, or it is decided for us, that we have learned "enough". A select few, and really it is too few in my opinion, opt to continue their exploration. They study science, in its cornucopic variety of fields. They travel the world seeking first hand information. They explore the bounds of the physical world by going faster, deeper, higher and farther. They go places where nobody has ever gone, at speeds and in ways that have never before been attempted. And all of these people, when they share their knowledge with those of us not gifted enough to do so ourselves but still interested, expand what we as a species know and understand. 

Once upon a time, it was a commonly held belief among citizens of The United States, that our country should stretch from sea to shining sea! It was our "Manifest Destiny". It wasn't really a novel idea. Every country and great civilization throughout history has sought to expand its influence as far as possible. As time and technology eliminated the barriers of geography and language, humanity settled into a different sort of system. Political influence, monetary power, and sometimes cooperation. Establishing shared ideals i.e. "Injustice anywhere, is injustice everywhere" the quote goes! It dawned on us at some point that no matter our individual dogmas or geographic origins, we are all a part of the same whole...Humanity! Now, whatever hurdles and stumbling blocks lay before us in the future, I think we can all agree that our next frontier is, in the words of Star Trek, Space! 

I want to thank you at this point for coming along for the ride! Now, it's time to reveal the meaning of the title of this blog post. I don't want to talk about the technology we're going to need just to get to space. I don't want to talk about how we're going to set aside our petty differences (or enumerate what those petty differences are) to even start working on the previous problem. Nor do I want to talk about what we're going to find out there... if we ever get there. At least not right now. No. This is a much simpler question, and one on which I hope to get your input. The question is, with some assumptions made; When we get out there, and we find other intelligent life, what will we call ourselves. It's even a fair question if that life comes to us one day. Will we say that we are from a planet called Earth? A word which easily translates to "soil" or "the medium in which plants grow". Will we, on a galactic/universal stage, be called "Earthlings"? On this front, I much prefer the Latin name "Terra". Sure, it basically means the same thing but, if I've learned anything from science fiction it is this, Terrans kick ass... Earthlings are puny creatures to be enslaved or destroyed. Sure, Human or Homo Sapiens Sapiens (yeah...TWO "sapiens"! It's not a typo. We are a sub-species, boys and girls...look it up) is perfectly fine as a taxonomic reference, but as a group, to be addressed as a whole or governed as a whole, I think "Terran" is a damn cool sounding name. Just as South Carolinians and Texans and Oregonians etc./ are addressed in unison as Americans, I think "Terrans" is a good word to address Americans, and Germans, and Australians and Russians and Japanese (Japanians?) etc./ as a whole! Of course, that may just be because I speak (American-) English. 

Which raises the question I would put to you! If you speak another language does "Earthling" sound as bad in that language? (I am very much interested in what the word is in said language) ... and would you prefer "Terran" or some other word?