Friday, October 17, 2003

With China's recent Earth orbit in the news, can we just settle on calling everyone "astronauts"? It seems silly to call people from Russia cosmonauts but then call people from China astronauts. (And I tried the jingoistic suggestion that we make it house style to call the Chinese "cosmonauts," too; that didn't fly.)

I've seen "taikonaut" in several stories, based on "taikong," the Chinese word for space. But this creates some problems.

"Cosmonaut" is the anglification of the Russian "kosmonaut." It's not much of a stretch — both use Greek roots to arrive at a similar meanings; the main difference in use seems to be political more than anything else.

"Taikong," however, is not Greek. And how does one translate the "naut" into Chinese?

Simply using the term taikongren or taikongyuan (taikong person) is problematic since that term is used already to mean space alien.
It appears that the Chinese media predominantly use "yuhangyuan," or space navigator.

But why all the fuss? Let's call everyone "astronaut" and be done with it. Use the other words for some flair if you'd like. But there shouldn't be nationality requirements on being an astronaut.


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