35

Besides Latin, of course. It seems to be very common to refer to the (typically colonized) moon as "Luna" in sci-fi works. Did authors independently decide to use the Latin name? Or did someone originate this, and future usages were a reference/tribute? Why do future humans use a name that current humans generally don't?

closed as too broad by Valorum, Binary Worrier, Edlothiad, Dave Johnson, Dason Feb 16 '17 at 21:27

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 17
    Using Latin names for bodies in the solar system is a general Sci Fi trope in and of itself. – Slacklord the Terrible Feb 15 '17 at 17:03
  • 2
    This question may be closed as being too broad because of the genre wide basis. You might want to narrow it down to a single universe or to a single work to keep the question open. It's also not very clear what you're asking. Are you asking if humans in the future prefer the term Luna or if someone once used it and future people have kept using it?NB: I haven't flagged it because I'm unsure. – Edlothiad Feb 15 '17 at 17:03
  • 25
    @JHZ "Why do future humans use a name that current humans generally don't?" An Anglo-centric thinking is occurring. The Romantic languages and surprisingly some non-Roman languages use words like Luna or Lune. And, albeit rarely, you will hear English speakers use the term. In fact, growing up in a bilingual province in a bilingual country, I was surprised when I discovered in adulthood that Luna was not the name of The Moon (in the same way we call "The Planet" Earth, I thought Luna was the moon's name.). – Lan Feb 15 '17 at 17:35
  • 2
    I'd say it had something to do with the Soviet moon probes being called Luna (since this is what the Moon, or any moon, is called in Russian). Obviously, I have no evidence. – Gallifreyan Feb 15 '17 at 18:19
  • 8
    Check out the similar (and complementary) question on Sol for our sun: scifi.stackexchange.com/q/92149/4516 – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Feb 15 '17 at 18:49
51

The reason why people in a science-fiction future would call the moon Luna is explained in Seeds' answer. If, like most people today, you only know about one moon, you can just call it the moon. If there are lots of moons that play a part in your life—you read about them in the papers, visit them on vacations, go to work on them, etc.—and if all the other moons have proper names like Phobos, Callisto, Titan, etc., then Earth's moon needs a proper name too, and Luna is a natural choice.

But you also seem to be asking about the origin of calling the moon Luna in science fiction. According to the Science Fiction Citations site, it seems to have started with this line from Raymond Z. Gallun's novelette "The Lunar Chrysalis" in Amazing Stories, September 1931, p. 528, column 2 (available at the Internet Archive):

I never regretted my decision to be one of the first men to visit Luna.

  • 7
    A great answer to an overly broad question. – Valorum Feb 15 '17 at 21:05
  • It's also interesting to note that in A Voyage to the Moon (1827) by George Tucker. Lunar is used to refer to many things; as the title indicates, the Lunar world is still called the moon. (he does refer to Luna firma at one point) – Seeds Feb 15 '17 at 22:31
  • Amazing answer, thanks! – Fattie Feb 15 '17 at 22:48
  • 1
    @Seeds But that's not noteworthy, that just normal English usage now and in 1827: “lunar” is the English adjective for things related to/from the Moon, as opposed to something like “moonar” which isn't a real word. That's why we call probes that go to the Moon “lunar probes”. – SevenSidedDie Feb 16 '17 at 5:37
  • 1
    Luna is the roman goddess of the moon. So, effectively, people started calling the moon that more than 2000 years ago and then at some point didn't call it that for a long time. Only when the need arose that there are more than one moon and moon became the general designation for any natural satellite around a planet, our moon needed a new (old) name. – Adwaenyth Feb 16 '17 at 6:41
64

Primarily, 'moon' is too general. Luna refers to Earth's moon, not other moons, of other planets. People outside SF&F have no reason to think about any other moons, for the most part, so saying 'The Moon' is distinct, and understood. In a setting where you are talking about other planets and THEIR moons, saying 'The Moon' is meaningless, particularly between people from different planets.

  • 9
    It's interesting that in works I've read/watched, Earth-residents never refer to Luna as "the moon", in the same way that someone on Long Island or in Palo Alto would refer to "the city" and mean separate fairly unambiguous things, even though they have proper names ("New York" and "San Francisco"). But maybe I haven't read the right works. Or maybe that would be confusing for present-day readers! – JHZ Feb 15 '17 at 17:22
  • 6
    But by the same token, "earth" is too general too, yet in a lot of prominent Sci-Fi people from planets all over the galaxy don't call the Earth "Terra". – user11521 Feb 15 '17 at 19:48
  • 11
    @Michael: you'd have to be one of those chauvinistic Terrans to not refer to the planet by its proper designation -- Sol III. :-P – Jeroen Mostert Feb 15 '17 at 20:05
  • 23
    @Michael I'm not sure if "Earth" is too vague. It's not the same as "Planet". We haven't defined any other Earth's, but there are a lot of moons. I've also read books where they do call Earth "Terra" or some other similar variation. – JMac Feb 15 '17 at 20:13
  • 11
    There's a great bit of a dialogue about this in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Valiant", when a character named Chief Collins mentions that she's from the Moon. Jake tries to laugh about how his grandfather calls Luna "the Moon" ("as if it's the only one"), and Collins replies that no one who's actually from Moon ever calls it anything but "Moon". – ruakh Feb 15 '17 at 21:52
29

(...) use a name that current humans generally don't?

Wow, quite a claim there!
Let's see:

  • 427 million of native Spanish speakers call our moon "Luna".
  • 160 million of native Russian speakers call our moon "Луна".
  • 65 million of native Italian speakers call our moon "Luna".
  • 24 million of native Romanian speakers call our moon "Lună".
  • 9 million of native Bulgarian speakers call our moon "Луна".

So we have 685+ million people that say, exactly, "Luna" when talking about our moon.
And:

  • 230 million of native Portuguese speakers call our moon "Lua".
  • 80 million of native French speakers call our moon "Lune".
  • 4 million of native Catalan speakers call our moon "Lluna".
  • 2 million of native Galician speakers call our moon "Lúa".

A total of about 1 billion people closer to "Luna" than to "Moon".

How does "Moon" compare?

  • 340 million native English speakers saying "Moon"
  • 40 million native Hausa speakers saying "Moon"
  • 28 million native Filipino speakers saying "Moon"
  • 17 million native Somali speakers saying "Moon"
  • 2.5 million native Slovenian speakers saying "Moon"

So that's 425+ million people saying "Moon" today.
And:

  • 95 million native German speakers saying "Mond"
  • 23 native Dutch speakers saying "Maan"
  • 10 million native Swedish speakers saying "Måne"
  • 7 million native Afrikaans speakers saying "Maan"
  • 5.5 million native Danish speakers saying "Månen"
  • 5 million native Norwegian speakers saying "Månen"

A total of 570 million people that may be closer to saying "Moon" than "Luna" (I say maybe because e.g. "Månen" is closer to "money" than to "moon", but I included it anyway).

If we include second languages, the numbers are about 1.3 billion people for "Moon" and 1.5 billion people for "Luna".

So it turns out that humans do use "Luna" as the name for our moon. More than Chinese "月亮", more than English "Moon". This and the "clarity" argument given in the other answers may be the main reasons for some future Earth using "Luna" as the name for our moon.

  • 3
    [Can't comment as anonymous, someone feel free to move this to a comment of walen's answer.] As one of the 9 million Bulgarian speakers, I can tell you that the general word "луна" that means "moon" and can be applied to any other planet is not necessarily the same as the Latin proper name Luna. The stress in the Bulgarian word is on the last syllable, in the Latin word it is on the first. When used as a proper name, I guess officially it is again with the stress on the last syllable, but I can easily see the Latin pronunciation becoming official in the future in order to distinguish between t – user78539 Feb 16 '17 at 13:28
  • 1
    Since this answer is largely about pronunciation, could we get a Romanization of 月亮? – KRyan Feb 16 '17 at 15:39
  • 2
    For people who don't know pinyin, a rough approximation of "yuèliàng" would be "y'weh l'yang," with "eh" somewhere between the "eh" in "meh" and "ay," depending on your accent, and "ang" like in "manga." I know they say "yey-ay" in Avatar, and it makes me cry. – MissMonicaE Feb 16 '17 at 15:53
  • 5
    But of course, the works I'm referring to are in English, and the characters are speaking in English. For example, in The Expanse, most of the Holden and Amos are Americans (or what passes for that in the future), but use "Luna". It would be the equivalent of a French work using "Moon" as the proper name in the future. – JHZ Feb 16 '17 at 17:57
  • 2
    I am spanish and hear "prime time" way more often than "horario de máxima audiencia". In japanese ミルク (from english milk) is used very often despite having a native japanese word for milk: 牛乳. There was a time when using the french word Fin instead of the film's language word for The End was popular. These are know as loan words or loan expresions. It is not a strech to imagine a future where Luna is a loan word in english taken from spanish. – Jose Antonio Dura Olmos Feb 16 '17 at 18:35

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.