Sue Burke (mount_oregano) wrote,
Sue Burke

Real Spanish: "alunizar," to land on the Moon

A brief lesson on Spanish (as spoken in Spain, I should specify), controversies included.

When you land on solid ground in an airplane or spaceship, you aterrizar; tierra means "land" or "soil" or "ground." In addition, Tierra (capitalized) means Earth (capitalized), that is, a specific planet, the one we're on (or I am, anyway; your location may vary).

When you land on water, you amarizar, that is, you land on the mar, the "sea," and by extension, any body of water.

When you land on the Moon, you alunizar; Luna means "Moon," the Earth's satellite where Apollo 11 alunizó 40 years ago.

But if you land on Mars, do you amartizar? Martes means "Mars." In May 25, 2008, NASA's Phoenix Mars mission touched down that planet, and the Spanish press duly reported that it had amartizado.

Soon afterward, the Fundación del Español Urgente or "Urgent Spanish Foundation" (urgent?) sprang into action ( and recommended using the word aterrizar instead because it had landed on tierra firme, wherever that land may be, on or off of Earth, and in fact a helicopter landing on an aircraft carrier would aterrizar, since the ship is firme.

The Fundación, which monitors the media for the proper use of the Spanish language, called amartizar an unnecessary neologism invented by the press for the Phoenix mission, although it did praise the neologism for being properly formed. The Real Academia Española dictionary, the official guardian of the Spanish language, does not include amartizar, though the María Moliner dictionary, another major reference work, does.

But the RAE specifies in its definition that alunizar is for Luna (capitalized), the Moon (capitalized), that particular moon where Neil Armstrong walked, so I wonder if we ever landed something on one of the moons of Jupiter, such as Europa or Ganymede, could the proper verb be aeuropizar or aganymedizar? What about the Jovian moon named S/2003 J 18?

— Sue Burke

Tags: spanish

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