Does it Matter?
When I first got into astronomy, I was frustrated by the vast number of strange terms and names I encountered. How are they pronounced I wondered? I wasn’t very old at the time, just into my teens or perhaps even pre-
Over the years I have heard many speakers uttering numerous astronomical terms and names differently from one speaker to the next. Latin seems to presents the first problem. In my younger days I quite often had to get to grips with ecclesiastical Latin, which I’m told resembled the ancient Roman pronunciation, with things like V being pronounced like W.
Confusingly, most Latin names and terms used by the scientific fraternity today is a mish/mash form of Latin which, apparently was similar, but not precisely to that used on the continent during the late Medieval times where the C, G and V’s where spoken as in English and the notorious OE and AE are sounded like the Latin E. I have read that this form of Latin would have sounded quite natural to the likes of Copernicus and Kepler, although I’m not so sure about Galileo who anyone who has read his writings will know, used a very flowery form of Latin.
But try pronouncing, for instance, some of the names that you see on a chart of the Moon, and you soon find just how difficult it is. (Why can’t we just use English, at least in the English speaking countries?) It is much easier to say: the Sea of Rains or the Sea of Clouds. Instead of MAH-
BUT, DOES IT MATTER?
Take a Look at the constellation names; again, this mish/mash of Latin is used in most cases. But there are a lot of traps here to catch out the speaker, names like Andromeda or Cancer are easy enough, but thing begin to get tricky with Cepheus – SEE-
But try putting star designations in front of the constellation name and you run into problems. For instance:-
Which brings me nicely to star names.
Astronomers in general do not have to learn Latin, but one alphabet that all should learn is the Greek. Because, If you are unsure of the Greek alphabet you will forever struggle every time you look at a star map, not only with the letter names, such as, Alpha, Beta, Gamma but also the funny skwiggiley little symbol thingies (αβγδ) that indicate them, or try to understand scientific formulae or equations, where for instance, the a Greek letter like Lamda = the wavelength of light, or Omega = the argument of periastron in a planetary orbit.
But this palls into insignificance when you look at the so called Proper Names of stars, many of which are just un-
BUT, DOES IT MATTER?
What about names of people, does it matter if we call the Danish astronomer TY-
BUT, DOES IT MATTER? Apart from being polite to the person referred to.
My own thoughts are, NO, it does not matter, providing it is clear from the context of the conversation what is meant, or who is meant. Who cares if we mis-
BUT, DOES IT MATTER? NO, NOT IN THE LEAST.