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Author Topic: Why are the Sun and Moon so named?  (Read 3544 times)

Offline thedoc

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Why are the Sun and Moon so named?
« on: 13/07/2012 17:30:02 »
Allan Scahill  asked the Naked Scientists:
   
This is a question for Naked Astronomy:

There are planets and stars in our universe with wonderful names, that evoke ancient Greek or Roman Gods.

Yet our two closest neighbours have such dull names. Sun and Moon. Why is this? If they do have other names, why are the names not used more frequently?

Allan Scahill
ascahill@gmail.com
Medicine Hat, AB
Canada

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 13/07/2012 17:30:02 by _system »


 

Offline Soul Surfer

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Re: Why are the Sun and Moon so named?
« Reply #1 on: 13/07/2012 23:17:19 »
In any language there are words for the sun and moon which go way back into antiquity together with many other common objects. No one really knows their origins however from a scientific point of view they are important indicators of the origins, evolution and secular change of languages and the movements of populations.  There is however one critical root word that is common to a great many languages which is the word for mother  "ma" this is probably because it is often one of the first sounds made by babies.
 

Offline imatfaal

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Re: Why are the Sun and Moon so named?
« Reply #2 on: 14/07/2012 19:22:02 »
I have read (although not convinced) that moon shares a common derivation with month in the proto indo-european - which makes a lot of sense - and both come from the word for measure or count (which also makes sense in the early world).

The sun was called pretty much the same since the proto indo-european  - so it just means sun. 
 

Online syhprum

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Re: Why are the Sun and Moon so named?
« Reply #3 on: 14/07/2012 21:19:47 »
Although the moon is always close to us surely for much of the time either Mars or Venus are closer to us than the Sun.
 

Offline Lmnre

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Re: Why are the Sun and Moon so named?
« Reply #4 on: 15/07/2012 06:28:59 »
There are planets and stars in our universe with wonderful names, that evoke ancient Greek or Roman Gods.

Yet our two closest neighbours have such dull names. Sun and Moon. Why is this? If they do have other names, why are the names not used more frequently?
Why dull names? For the same reason that "dull" names are given to one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, hair, face, head, arm, elbow, finger, body, leg, knee, foot, toe, cat, dog, horse, pig, lamb, goat, house, door, room, bed, chair, floor, dish, cup, plate, bowl, spoon, fork, knife, water, air, food, ... because they are so commonly used that, if you had to call the sun and moon "Thegreatlightthatilluminatesandwarmsallthings" and "Thelesserofthetwogreatlightsinthesky" (or some such names) every time, doing so would get old really, really, really fast. It's the same reason why we have abbreviations like CEO, COO, CFO, CTO, etc.

As for the names themselves, Sun and Moon.

And let's not blame English speakers, because pretty much everyone does it.

Generally, the big important things get the quick and simple names, and it's the small, out-of-the-way things that need explaining that get the long names. For example, a minor star in Ursa Major is, in Arabic, called Maghriz al-dhanab al-dubb al-akbar (ie, "the root of the tail of the great bear"), a long and magnificently wonderful name, which by the way, English (thankfully) shortens to "Megrez".
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Why are the Sun and Moon so named?
« Reply #5 on: 15/07/2012 11:22:08 »
I don't think there is anything scientific in these names, other than the science behind the spread of man.

We rather tend to consider the names as being English, but then English, in common with most other modern languages, is a mish mash of many languages. Take a look at old English. No self respecting souvenir shop would pass up on the opportunity to attract mugs tourists into their establishment to flog some old tat (probably made in China) without the words 'Ye Olde Shoppe' being emblazoned across the frontage. We mugs tourists look at this and pronounce the word 'Ye' Y -ee. But in fact the 'Y' is not a 'Y' at all in this instance, it is the now defunked 'Theta', which is pronounced 'th'. So 'Ye' should be pronounced 'the'.

Anyway, so much for that. There are suggestions that the word 'sun' comes from the old Germanic 'Sonne', but that would only give the word around a 900 year history. Then there is the Indo-European, which Imatfaal mentions.

But I think these names go far back in the history of language. Look to many languages and you will find some words which are common to all, in one form or another. They may not be exactly the same, but the similarities between them from one language to another, suggests that they all had a common ancestor.

These are the basic words which would have been the first 'words' as opposed to grunts and would have all been short and simple. Their purpose was to communicate a specific, such as food, water and numbers.

Hence the word 'one' has similarities with the same concept in other languages:-
English = one
French = Un
Spanish = una
German = ein

Other basic words which prehistoric man might have found useful might be 'two', 'three', 'lots', 'hello', 'food', 'water' etc.

In some cases, it might not be instantly obvious, such as 'water', but do remember that this in some languages is 'aqua' or 'agua' and in English, though the word 'water' is the everyday word we use, we do also have the word 'aqua'. So the common connection is there.

Another thing to remember is that the similarities would be based on sound, not the written word.

Of the word 'Sun', I could suggest a link which goes back to ancient Egypt. The sun god was 'Ra' or perhaps we would write that as 'Ray', as in the Sun's rays. If the ancient Egyptians had a sun god 10,000 years ago, with a name which correlates to a similar concept in modern English, I think it safe to assume that the Sun had been given its name long before the rise of the pre-dynastic Egyptians.

As for the Moon, the god ‘Min’ (he of the erect wedding tackle) was also worshipped as a Moon god and was the son of Amun (The Hidden One) and Mut. Luna, is the Latin name for the ancient Greek moon goddess.

My conclusion is that the names ‘Sun & ‘Moon’ go back too far to establish their true origins.

I would just add, that those basic words might have been formed by the simple two sound progression from grunts:-

1 - un
2 - ta
3 - tra
Sun - zn
Moon - mn
Hello - lo
Food - fd
There - th
Here - ha

Sounds familiar? Listen to the modern teenager. :o)
« Last Edit: 15/07/2012 11:41:13 by Don_1 »
 

Offline Lmnre

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Re: Why are the Sun and Moon so named?
« Reply #6 on: 15/07/2012 14:34:33 »
In some cases, it might not be instantly obvious, such as 'water', but do remember that this in some languages is 'aqua' or 'agua' and in English, though the word 'water' is the everyday word we use, we do also have the word 'aqua'. So the common connection is there.
And other words found their way into English from the original word for water. Keep in mind that W's and H's are not "strong" consonants (they are almost vowels), meaning that they are prone to more change, and as you said, it's based on pronunciation, not spelling (so D's and T's are very similar). So, ignoring the vowels (which don't carry much basic information) we have:
hydro
water
sweat
sudorific
wash (maybe)

The word "aqua" seems to have a different origin.
 

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Re: Why are the Sun and Moon so named?
« Reply #6 on: 15/07/2012 14:34:33 »

 

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