What’s your name? For the purpose of this blog post I am going to assume you know what it is and possibly where it came from. The usual culprits, as in my case are famous film stars or favourite countries or perhaps a highly regarded and loved great aunt. Whatever the explanation, you know what you are called and who named you.
Seems quite reasonable and normal doesn’t it.
But what if you have been called something all your life but have no idea who decided on that name and no one can tell you, not even your parents? You’d have to wonder wouldn’t you?
So here’s the quandary; who named our wonderful and unique planet that has been inhabited for millions of years by one life form or another, ‘Planet Earth’ and for that matter, when?
Each and every one of the planets in our solar system has been named after a Roman or Greek god; as our ancient and more recent astrological ancestors began to understand just what space was all about, so they gave each planet a name eg Neptune, Pluto and Mars.
But by the time they were doing this, the planet they were living on already had a name that everyone knew and it was simply accepted. But surely someone must have come up with the idea in the first instance.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
If you cast your mind back a few thousand years when people accepted everything on face value; never asking questions or doubting what they saw and believed. Their world was flat and if you ran too far you would fall off the edge; you had the sky above that gave you the sun, the moon, the stars and the weather and the ground beneath your feet that you learned how to use to grow the food you needed to survive. However you didn’t know about the oceans or seas, just the land.
Life was simple and straight forward and as survival progressed to relative prosperity you began to give thanks to those things that made life better for everyone, especially the soil from which came all life; Mother Earth from where new life was born.
If we go way back to when the Proto-Indo-European people started to spread out across Europe in around 500BC, the word they used to describe ‘to plough’ closely resembled the word earth and the Anglo Saxon word for earth was eore or ertha and the German word was erde meaning ground.
So the common noun used to describe the fertile and crucial soil ie ‘earth’ started to be used to describe the location where people lived and thrived.
Then as our language started to evolve from the Anglo Saxon era, this common noun similarly evolved into a proper noun as people adopted the name and started referring to their environment as ‘living on earth’. Then as the scribes began to record their findings and the story tellers moved from town to town sharing their love of words, so the name stuck and from around the 15th century philosophers, writers and other intellectuals began to refer to our planet as Planet Earth.
Other languages have their own name for it e.g. France calls it ‘Terre’, Spain ‘Tierra’ and Germany ‘Land’. This would seem to suggest that as the early civilisations migrated across the continents, they took the name ‘earth’ with them and it was soon adopted by other cultures and it only altered as that nation’s individual language developed.
So in conclusion, it would seem no one can lay claim to coming up with the name ‘Planet Earth’ but like mud it has stuck, but I do wonder if there is life on another planet and they have spotted us in their solar system, what they might call us.
Suggestions on a post card (or email) please.