Where the Sun Doesn’t Shine

To: NASA, or whoever else is in charge of these things

From: The International Society for People Who Care About Planets

We, the undersigned, do petition that the name of the planet Uranus be changed.

Uranus was discovered by William Herschel, a man who wanted to name it after King George III of England (he of The Madness of King George fame). A group of astronomers nixed Herschel's choice in favor of Uranus, thus taking out their envy and anger on a poor, defenseless planet.

No other planet has had to endure the shame of such a humiliating moniker. Pronouced either "Your-anus" or "Urine-us," it gets no respect from adults and has provoked condescending giggles from generations of schoolchildren. In fact, there is no way to pronounce Uranus without it sounding insulting. Shakespeare did say "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," but in our opinion, a name change would boost Uranus' popularity at least level with Neptune. Which isn't saying much, since Neptune is not exactly a winner in the planetary popularity sweepstakes.

Not many people can get past the name to appreciate Uranus for its rings, its lovely blue color, and its funky rotation (rumor has it Uranus was zonked by an asteroid).

Let's review our Greek/Roman mythology for a moment. Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Neptune and Pluto are all major mythological figures. Only Saturn is a loser who gets ousted by Jupiter, but he was his father, after all.

Uranus is so marginal a character that he is practically nonexistent. He was the personification of Heaven, son and husband (pretty shady) of Gaea, or Earth, and father of the Titans and Cyclops (nothing to be proud of there). He hated his children and confined them inside the body of Earth, who begged them to avenge her, which Saturn (Kronos) did by castrating his dad/brother. So, we see that not only was Uranus not a major player, he was also jealous, depraved, anti-environmentalist and a eunuch (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

While we're doing the name change, let's get some more goddesses out there, as they are sadly underrepresented in the heavens at the moment.

Here, then, are our suggestions for a new name for Uranus:

Urania: The muse of astrology. How appropriate is that! Sounds a little better than Uranus but not exactly euphonius, either. It would save some confusion, though.

Athena: the goddess of wisdom and one of the more decent mythological figures as she rarely suffered from temper tantrums followed by the infliction of dire consequences upon hapless mortals.

Juno: wife and sister (here we go again) of Jupiter. Spent most of her time being royally pissed off at Jupiter’s lovers—and there were lots of them. But being queen of the gods counts for something.

Persephone, Proserpina: daughter of Demeter, abducted by Pluto (Hades). Puny Pluto would no way be able to make off with a gas giant like her now! Name does have some pronunciation problems, though.

Hecate: Goddess of the lower world, magic, ghosts and witchcraft. Often represented with three heads and six arms. Pretty cool!

Queen Mab: Not Greco-Roman, but since Uranus' moons are named Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon, how about something fairylike?

Diana: aka Artemis, she was goddess of the hunt and the sister of Apollo but didn't do much more than zealously guard her chastity and turn would-be suitors into stags or simply slay them. We fear people would assume the planet was named after Princess Di.

However, there is a small contingent that says celebrities are the gods of our era and is suggesting the names "Marilyn" or "Elvis."

—Ela Schwartz


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