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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old January 26 2014, 11:30 AM   #1
Deranged Nasat
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Planet Names

We all know that the Trek 'verse, at least on screen, has a tendency towards presenting monocultures, where an entire planetary population is equivalent to a single nation, country or ethnic tradition. It's one of those "no sense of scale" issues so prevalent in popular sci-fi. One of many (Betazed only has one university, apparently).

Of course, in "reality", different cultures and nations will have different names for their planet. In terms of official Federation records and legalese, however, I imagine there are standard officialised names. So, the question that I'm interested in answering here is two-fold: first, how many incidents do we have of multiple names or disputes over naming as regards planets, and how does the Federation handle the issue?

In "The Tears of Eridanus", from Myriad Universes, there's a welcome aversion with planet Vulcan. The humans in that timeline refer to the planet as Eridanus, since it's located at 40 Eridani, while native names include T'Khasi and Minshara (the former from Worlds of the Federation, the latter from Enterprise's Minshara-class). Given that this Vulcan is as far from political unity as you can get, it apparently never standardized.

So, does the Federation in the prime timeline have an official name for each planet? Who decides that name? Does the Federation resolve disputes over naming? Are there disgruntled populations of Rigelians constantly petitioning to have Rigel IV officially renamed Woopadoop as their traditional tribal culture demands? Shar grew up knowing the Human homeworld as Terra, we're told, so is that its official Federation name, as taught in schools? Or is Earth more correctly referred to as Sol III? Compare with Andor/Andoria or Trill/Trillius Prime.

Regarding another "Prime", Cardassia Prime, we see over the course of DS9 that "Cardassia" is used in reference to the nation as a whole, to the expanded territories of the Cardassian Union. I've assumed that originally "Cardassia" was simply the planet's name, but as their unified culture expanded it became "Cardassia Prime", distinguishing the homeworld and capital from the colonies. (As an aside, there's a fascinating untold story here when we consider that Tret Akleen was originally from Ventani II - that is, he was a colonist. Given how centralized modern Cardassia is, governed from Cardassia City on Cardassia Prime, I've always wondered if there's some unexplored period of tension in their cultural backstory, political infighting between the homeworld and the colonies, which the homeworld evidently won. Tret Akleen's story needs to be told. Write, McCormack, write!).

In Forged In Fire Curzon Dax reveals that the situation for his planet is reversed - "Trillius Prime" is the formal name of old that most people now disregard in favour of the more casual "Trill". (I wonder, though, given the buried, "pre-historic" history of Trill colonization if this wasn't originally a similar situation - that Trill was the planet's only name until the Trill culture extended to Kurl and other worlds, upon which the planet was re-categorized as Trillius Prime, with "Trill" relating to the culture as a whole).

(I still maintain that for the sake of consistency, Humans should be from Humus Prime )

We know that the species name "Bajoran" is taken from the name of an expansionist nation that eventually annexed the planet, Dominion-style. The name "Bajor", then, is presumably taken from "Bajoran". So what was the planet called before this? (In this case, as "the land and the people are one", it makes some sense that the planet would be named for the people. It also makes the Bajorans' modern history of displacement and occupation more tragic)

The old Worlds of the Federation book proposed native names for many Federation member worlds. Some of these have been incorporated into the modern continuity - T'Khasi as an alternate name for Vulcan, Fesoan (identified in Watching the Clock's annotations as the gas giant orbited by Andor(ia) rather than the planet itself), and Lyaksti'kton (Sauria's "real" name, used recently in A Choice of Futures).

While we're talking Sauria, it's also worth noting that the planet is named N'Ragolar by the M'Tezir nation, which has not joined the Global League of Lyaksti'kton. Christopher does this a lot, actually - the Deltans and Rigelians now have native names that the usual term merely approximates. Apparently, speakers of English continue to exhibit that traditional British mix of linguistic laziness and imperiousness.

Some non-Trek examples of multiple names:

In the Mass Effect universe, the volus race address members of other species by reference to their place of origin: Humans are "Earth-clan", the nomadic quarians "Migrant-Clan". Surprisingly, though, volus themselves are not "Irune-clan" (their homeworld's name), but "Vol-clan". Is Vol then an alternate name for Irune? Perhaps the formal traditional name for the planet, or a spiritual name while Irune is the mundane, secular term? Or is "Irune" the name used by the volus' turian patrons?

In the Babylon Five universe, according to background materials, the Abbai race is a pleasing aversion. Their homeworld is known as Abba (which apparently translates as "home", making Abbai "people of home, people who know where their home is", which is relevant to their cultural worldview and is used in one of the RPG supplements to make a rather clever rhetorical point), as Nata Nuraai (literally, "mother of the universe") and as Sssumsha (the meaning of which isn't explained, but which closely resembles the name of a major city - perhaps the city where the planet's current world government originated?)

So... any Trek novel examples, insights into the naming of planets, possible disputes that arise, and the official approach taken by the UFP?

This denizen of Humus Prime is eager to see if he's missed anything.
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Last edited by Deranged Nasat; January 26 2014 at 11:44 AM.
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Old January 26 2014, 06:48 PM   #2
Stevil2001
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Re: Planet Names

Well, it's not from the novels, but in the show we have the colony of Weytahn/Paan Mokar.
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Old January 26 2014, 07:21 PM   #3
Deranged Nasat
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Re: Planet Names

Steve Mollmann wrote: View Post
Well, it's not from the novels, but in the show we have the colony of Weytahn/Paan Mokar.
I'd actually forgotten about that. One of the few land disputes in Star Trek that featured an explicit name dispute as well - I recall Shran getting testy upon hearing "Paan Mokar".

I've recalled another example of a Worlds of the Federation name seeing use in modern novels: Unspoken Truth confirms that Tiburon is known to the natives as Simeran.
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Old January 26 2014, 10:41 PM   #4
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Re: Planet Names

I always thought Cardassia Prime was called that because it was the closest planet to its star in its system (for example, Mercury would be Sol Prime). It's portrayed as hot so it made sense to me.
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Old January 26 2014, 11:50 PM   #5
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Re: Planet Names

  • Sha Ka Ree. The Source. Heaven. Eden. Call it what you will.
  • The Klingons call it Qui'Tu.
  • The Romulans, Vorta Vor. In Andorian it is unpronounceable.
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Old January 27 2014, 12:18 AM   #6
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Re: Planet Names

Quimby wrote: View Post
I always thought Cardassia Prime was called that because it was the closest planet to its star in its system (for example, Mercury would be Sol Prime). It's portrayed as hot so it made sense to me.
It's unlikely the nearest planet to its star would be remotely habitable, given what we know about extrasolar planetary systems -- many of which have planets far, far closer to their stars than Mercury is to Sol. In fact, having planets numbered VI or IX in the habitable zone may not be as unlikely as I once thought.

The "Prime" designation is sometimes used in Trek and other SF for the home system of a starfaring species, especially when the same name is used for the planet, the species, and the polity they belong to. We also have Tellar Prime and Tandar Prime, for example. But there are a ton of "Prime" planets in Trek that don't seem to have any unifying pattern, and some of them are explicitly not the nearest to their stars. It seems to be used to represent the most important world in a given system of the same name.
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Old January 27 2014, 03:19 PM   #7
King Daniel Into Darkness
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Re: Planet Names

Spock's World and The Romulan Way detail the human origins of the names "Vulcan" and "Romulan/Romulus/Remus" - although the latter was rendered obsolete when the Romulans identified themselves by that name in ENT: "Minefield"
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Old January 27 2014, 07:13 PM   #8
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Re: Planet Names

King Daniel Into Darkness wrote: View Post
Spock's World and The Romulan Way detail the human origins of the names "Vulcan" and "Romulan/Romulus/Remus" - although the latter was rendered obsolete when the Romulans identified themselves by that name in ENT: "Minefield"
I don't remember what Duane's explanations for either one were, but I like to imagine with the "Minefield" example that Romulan is merely an English transliteration of the Rihannsu term that doesn't actually quite line up with the English word -- somewhat similar to Dhei becoming Delta IV.
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Old January 27 2014, 07:42 PM   #9
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Re: Planet Names

Isn't the Earth called Terra in the novels/TV and the Moon called Luna?

I wish I could remember what series it was in (Maybe the stainless steel rat) that the protagonist talks about the human home planet: "Dirt, mud or earth or some such stupid name." I always laugh at that quote.

It would be cool if we knew the "native" name for more planets, especially ones that are not human colonies.
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Old January 27 2014, 07:56 PM   #10
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Re: Planet Names

Sci wrote: View Post
I don't remember what Duane's explanations for either one were...
The explanation is pretty much self-evident from "Balance of Terror" -- they were twin planets, and Romulus and Remus are twins from Roman mythology. That's been the standard interpretation for the origin of the names up until "Minefield" screwed things up.


but I like to imagine with the "Minefield" example that Romulan is merely an English transliteration of the Rihannsu term that doesn't actually quite line up with the English word -- somewhat similar to Dhei becoming Delta IV.
Federation: The First 150 Years asserts that the native name for Romulus is Rom A'losh, meaning "Raptor's Nest."


Jedi_Master wrote: View Post
Isn't the Earth called Terra in the novels/TV and the Moon called Luna?
They've had those names in many works of science fiction over the decades -- oh, and in Ancient Rome. (Well, not quite; technically terra referred to the element of earth, and the planet was called Tellus -- hence "Tellurian" as a demonym for Earthlings in Robert Holmes's Doctor Who serials and some other science fiction.)
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Old January 29 2014, 03:19 AM   #11
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Re: Planet Names

Jedi_Master wrote: View Post
Isn't the Earth called Terra in the novels/TV and the Moon called Luna?
According to the Chief in "Valiant" only people on Earth call it Luna. Residents just call it 'the moon'.

I wish I could remember what series it was in (Maybe the stainless steel rat) that the protagonist talks about the human home planet: "Dirt, mud or earth or some such stupid name." I always laugh at that quote.
The Human Chronicles Saga. To other aliens when he says "Earth" it translates as dirt like physical 'earth'. (unless there's another series that does the same)
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