This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.



Thursday, 10 January 2019

Ultima Thule: a rant.

The NASA New Horizons spacecraft has just reached minor planet (486958) 20014 MU69.

You can see why it's been given a nickname, can't you. It's being called Ultima Thule.

Now, Ultima Thule may be named after the far northerly and unidentified land described in ancient times. (I mean, no one's even sure where Thule is, and Ultima Thule must be even further out (ultima is Latin for last).) 

Ultima Thule might be Greenland, it might be Iceland, it might be Norway, it might be some unidentified Scottish island. No one knows.

But is the minor planet indeed named after that Thule? Or is it something to do with the Swedish outdoor brand Thule which was founded in 1942 by the Thulin family. (It sells roof racks, among other things.)

Well, a camping trip to the minor planet would be pretty far out, wouldn't it?

Luckily, we can tell which was the inspiration for the nickname from its pronunciation. The ancient land is pronounced THYOOli, and the roof rack brand is pronounced TOOli.

Well, NASA should know. And what are they saying? 

TOOli.

Well, I hope those roof rack people paid NASA well for all that publicity, anyway.

Word To Pronounce Properly Today: Thule. This word was said by the Greek astronomer Geminus of Rhodes to derive from a word for the very long winter night, and to mean the place where the sun goes to rest.



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