1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Immigrants to a new planet, would they call dirt, 'earth'?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by GingerCoffee, Oct 13, 2014.

    Mushroom like growths are bursting out of the dirt. Would Earth emigrants in the near future (a century or so) use the word, earth, for dirt? The planet has a different name.

    Wondering what peoples' opinions are on this.
     
  2. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Didn't Earth begin as a word for the land humans lived on?
     
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  3. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this would be FANTASTIC.
     
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  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Oh thank you thank you thank you. Yes, etymology, of course. Actually that's where I got my planet's name, Erde.
     
  5. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Na. The term Earth could easily have fallen out of use by then and Soil, Dirt and Ground more commonly used.
     
  6. A.M.P.
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    Hmm..
    I think it would be out of the vocabulary honestly.
    We barely use it to refer to the ground as Earth is now the name of the planet rather than what we are atop of.
    It'd make more sense for people to talk about foreign soils and dirt than foreign earth. Even in science terms the word wouldn't be used.
    Unless the situation was more "We found a new Earth" and then it kinda caught on..
     
  7. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I see it as a sort of sentimental word, in this context.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't use the word earth for dirt now--I only use it for the planet. I have a vague feeling that its use for dirt is British, but I have no idea why.

    But if the emigrants used the word for dirt where they came from (as in, "Your shoes are covered with earth! Take them off before you track up the whole house!") then I think they'd keep on using it, yes.
     
  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Depends on how you're going to term it. Are they talking about it? Then I'd think they'd use the term soil or dirt. If you're writing about it in a description than I could see using the word earth ( especially if it's to distinguish an area from something that isn't earth-like ) but if the inhabitants haven't seen earth or talked about earth in ages they might've lost the term than dirt or soil, or loam might work.

    Cool idea btw!
     
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  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Here's the sentence in its current form:

    I spun around with my arms out looking at every green leaf, every tree, every spongy growth bursting from the moist earth.
    I might change it to 'soil' but 'earth' has a better word cadence to me.
     
  11. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, in that case you might consider soil. "Earth" seemed more like a term colonists would use when talking to each other, you know, kind of to show off that they're from Earth.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that the character would use the word, yes. However, I think that there are two separate issues here--whether the character would use it, and whether it would distract the reader. I'm not sure of my opinion on the second one.
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    My 2p is that earth with a little e would still be used. Language change for basic signifiers such as these isn't as conscious as all that. Just imagine the conversation to be had if someone objected to the use of the word earth within the colony population.

    A - "I'm going to start a farm just over the second ridge. There's good earth over there for planting and the river runs right by."

    B - "Dude, you can't call it 'earth'. We live on Blort now, so there's good 'blort' for planting over there. Or say soil. Yeah, soil doesn't bother me."

    A - "........ you are a dork. So anyway, does anyone want in on the new farm?"
     
  14. Wreybies
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    Or...... (and just to play devil's advocate)

    Use of the term earth could be a moniker of the elder population, just as older people today are more apt to eschew preposition stranding and younger people hear correct preposition positioning as old fashioned. Each generation understands the other perfectly even though their respective idiolects are different.

    "I spun around with my arms out looking at every green leaf, every tree, every spongy growth bursting from the moist earth. Ha. Earth. That was granny's word. When had I started using it? No idea."
     
  15. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's sort of the difference between "awnt" and "ant" to describe your mothers sister in America, the former being the motherland's pronunciation, the latter making one sound a bit like a peasant.

    In fact, "earth" could devolve to "arth" and then to "arse,".
     
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  16. Storysmith
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    Why not make it part of the story? Perhaps some people are offended by the use of the word "earth" being used for soil on the new planet, whereas others consider it unimportant. It could be like Political Correctness nowadays - some people would continue to use the term, but if they say it in front of the wrong person, they would get offended. And perhaps people from Earth aren't generally aware of this, so that if they visit, they'll refer to soil as "earth" without realizing that it might be offensive.
     
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  17. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm... interesting. I've never really thought about the use of earth vs. soil/dirt, but now that you mention it I must agree that saying 'earth' sounds strange. In Swedish, on the other hand, the translation of 'earth' (jord) is pretty much the only word used to refer to earth/soil. But it is also used for the planet's name (Jorden).

    @GingerCoffee
    I personally find that both 'earth' and 'soil' would work equally well for the sentence. Given the context, however, I must say that 'soil' works much better. Referring to something as 'earth' makes me think of our planet, thus I find it pretty confusing to read "the moist earth" as a description of the earth/soil on a completely different planet.
     
  18. Shadowfax
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    To my ear, earth sounds better than soil.

    The alternatives of soil and dirt both sound, well, dirty, as in "you have soiled your linen"!..not really descriptive of what you grow stuff in (I'm seeing a dirt back yard as being dried soil that's so trodden down that it'll never grow anything)...the offering of loam is descriptive of a particular kind of earth (the sort of soil that keen gardeners would kill for).

    As for "you have earth all over your shoes"...I'd use "mud" in that context...again with the dirty talk!
     
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  19. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Thanks to all for your replies. I love all the different takes people have on these issues.
     
  20. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, no worries. We just want to make it as difficult for you as possible. You know, saying that everything is right and that everything is wrong. ;)
     
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  21. Lewdog
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    I go with what @Wreybies said and think they would just call it soil.
     
  22. Wreybies
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    Well, actually, I said that earth would be a word that continues into the future even if we don't live on Earth anymore. (The rest of this is not at you specifically, @Lewdog)

    The kind of linguistic shift that is being spoken of by those who say that it would disappear isn't the kind of shift that is really seen in the linguistic landscape. The word is etymologically related to the word for the planet, but this relationship doesn't void the use of the word when we leave this planet. It still has a valid and very common application. Making words suddenly disappear from the language because of our science fiction landscapes is overthinking the matter, in all truth. If the colony has a literary bank, a digital library, so to speak, then even less likely that the word would disappear. Russian has a similar word pair for the name for the planet, but its partner is not the word for dirt, its their word for peace. In Russian, the word for peace is мир (meer) and the name for our planet is Mир (Meer). If Russians colonize another planet, I can hardly see it as a reason to have to change the word for peace because of the homonym.

    Now, if there is no data bank of literature or the colony goes through a crisis moment where the written word vanishes for a time (the computers fry, someone goes all revolutionary and torches the ship, etc.) then maaaaybe such a thing might happen because at that point the only language that would have any valid continuity would be the living language, the actual words used on a day to day basis, even if the elder colonists made a concerted effort to try to write back down and save what they could of their language and literature. The reason is this: I know the words hither, thither and whither. I know how to use them. I know their correct respective meanings and their applications and the grammar and syntax structures that support them and that they support. But how often does anyone use those words in regular live conversation? Even someone as snootily affected as me. Not very often. A generation of children could conceivably be born and grow up and never hear those words even though their parents know the words. In a survival situation such fancy schmancy verbiage is not likely to find a segue. Be that the case, those words are truly dead. The elder generation passes and the children never get the knowledge of those words. The words are gone and unrecoverable along with very probably a tremendous host of unusual, high register, and magniloquent vocabulary.

    But earth is not hither, thither and whither. It's a very common noun. It does sound a bit more of a literary register than soil, which has a technical register sound, or dirt that has a common register sound. But it's nowhere near as high or poetic a register as loam. Loam, I could easily see dying out within a generation without written backup.

    ETA: Someone earlier mentioned mutating the phonemes of the word, which I'm not sure if that was mentioned in jest, but if not, for the love of Pete, Ginger, don't do that. Jim Aikin did this in his novel The Wall at the Edge of the World, and while otherwise a good novel, this poorly researched play with phoneme mutation 1) in no way represent the real way in which phoneme shifts affect a language because he had it only affect certain words, and that's not how it works, and 2) it gave my inner reading voice what felt like an unfortunate speech impediment. Distracting in the extreme.
     
  23. Lewdog
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    Well I think it would be soil and there is a very simple reason for it. Most of your technical and scientific terms use soil. There is even a branch of "Soil Science."
     
  24. Shadowfax
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    It's a bit like the agricultural labourer whose use of "manure" was questioned, "Can't you get him to say fertilizer?" To which the reply was "It's taken me ten years to get him to say manure."
     
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  25. matwoolf
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    I think in the first paragraph to use earth, dirt and soil. Toss words, mingle your muck metaphors like a pile of crap for example is a small hill. Paragraph two introduce loam, crust, surface, ground to the plot. Remember conflict or I stop, stop reading, stop completely. No conflict I stop. Paragraph three revert to the original terms of the first paragraph, recall conflict. Introduce Russian words meer and pravda in chapter two. Entirely new words later in the piece provide a secure bedrock for the mud lexicon in an alien zone going forward. Proceed to bookshop. Has anybody yet written an alien gardening book, I'd read it, though most comfortable for me is a lot of spheres, cannibal roots, compost gases.

    Essentially OP needs to juggle up. Recently I wrote 'dog' seven times in five sentences. I revised the short using creature, beast, big puppy, woofer. Revision is critical.
     
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