Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Celebrate Your Celestial Body

Yesterday, a student asked me how I felt about Valentine’s Day.

I realized I’m kind of ambivalent about it. One the one hand, how lovely to dedicate an entire day to celebrating love! On the other hand, shouldn’t every day be Valentine’s Day? Shouldn’t I be showered with jewels and chocolates and flowers and cards and expensive dinners and romance every day of the year?

Do holidays like Valentine’s Day allow us to take our loved ones for granted during the remaining 364 days?

It’s really Earth Day that got me thinking about this. We celebrate Earth Day on April 22, but for the rest of the year, we seem to take our planet for granted.

I say this because we capitalize the word Earth in Earth Day, but we don’t consistently capitalize it otherwise.

Now, I realize that earth should not be capitalized when we use it to refer to dry land or dirt; I’m talking about when we’re referring to our planet.

It's not fair; we capitalize the other planets. Saturn already has those cool rings, Mars houses weird green creatures with three eyes, Uranus is the butt of lots of jokes, AND they get capital letters.

We only capitalize words like earth, moon, and sun when they appear in a context with other capitalized celestial bodies.

Example: The sun heats the earth, and the moon provides the earth with swiss cheese.

Example: I don’t care if Jupiter is big and Venus is sexy; I prefer to live on Earth.

It’s as though we esteem the other planets more than our own.

Shouldn’t we capitalize the word earth even when it’s not in the same sentence as the other planets? Shouldn’t we celebrate our planet? Every day should be Earth Day!

I’m so upset, I am thinking about driving my Escalade straight over to my local congressman’s office. But first I need to calm down; I think I’ll take a long, hot shower.


Jessica Bell said...

Anything that there is only ONE of, is capitalized when teaching English as a second language as far as my experience goes. Strange I'd never heard that rule about only being cap with other celestial bodies ... Hmmmm ... what planet am I on? LOL

Shannon said...

This rule blows my mind. How ridiculously inconsistent.

(I feel the need to be witty, but it's not happening. I can't even come up with a pun. Oy.)

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Ah-ha! It's just as I suspected: this is one of those rules we follow "just because".

Despite all the reading I do, I could never quite make out a rhyme or reason to why and where Earth, Sun, and Moon got capitalized; it didn't seem to follow any "logical" pattern.

Of course, it was obvious when the earth the writer was referring to was simply "dirt", as in: "I grabbed a fistful of earth and threw it into his eyes, then sucker-punched him in the gut!"

I was always smart enough to know that "earth" in the example above would NOT be capitalized. But at other times it seemed a mystery to me.

Now I know (thanks to you) we do it this certain way "just because this is the way we do it".

Which is all I need to know in order to convince me to continue capitalizing Earth, Moon, and Sun exactly where and when I, personally, believe it should be done.

I have followed my own writing rules in plenty of other cases when I felt the "acceptable" way was simply "unacceptable" to ME. And I will continue to do it MY WAY with the planets from now on!

Thanks for the "green light", Missed Periods!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Mark said...

Well it is mostly that the words mean other things as well. Other planets have moons but ours is the only one called the Moon. Earth is just another name for dirt or ground, and in that sense doesn't deserve capitalization. As for suns, I'm not too sure but you can draw a sun I guess without it being the Sun. I guess that we just came up with these words for those particular things and then named other things after them. If Jupiter or Uranus became a verb then we would do the same there.

Dylan Fitzgerald said...

I find "earth" useful as a synonym for dirt because it's less deragatory towards the substance. As a native Midwesterner, I find dirt/earth to be kind of lovely.

Kelly Polark said...

Very inconsistent.
Not nearly as consistent as the usage of the word Uranus in our household.

Ray Veen said...

I freaking love this blog! So glad I followed Kelly here.

Do you do any writing besides this? You should. This stuff is gold.

Jaya J said...

Agreed. Earth deserves more :)

Janet Johnson said...

I did not know this rule. Crazy! Earth does deserve better. It puts up with us, after all. :)

Jeffrey Beesler said...

Capitalizing on Earth? Isn't that what humanity has been doing since the dawn of time?

anthony stemke said...

If every day were Earth day, it wouldn't be so special. Same thing for Valentines day.
Yes, we should respect our world and love one another daily but having a set day annually like Mothers day etc should serve as a reminder and a celebration day.
Please don't be too upset and drive your Escalade to congressmans office. Take the Prius or Chevy Volt instead.

JDC said...

I always capitalize Earth (as long as spell check reminds me ~_^)

StephanieC said...

I hope that you are listening to John Mayer's "Waiting on the world to change" while you settle down in that long, hot shower.


I have great intentions and less than admirable follow through myself. ;)



Anonymous said...

Too bad the rest of intelligent life in the universe doesn't esteem Earth. They usually take a detour around us.

DWei said...

If everyday was Valentine's day wouldn't that make getting flowers and jewels mundane?

Anonymous said...

I never noticed this until you pointed it out! How ridiculously inconsistent! I might just start capitalizing it all the time and throw everyone off!

Mykuljay said...

So if I'm in space and fall - do I fall to Earth or to earth? I suspect the former. Yet if I am happy digging in the warm earth of Spring I would guess no capitalization.

I think there is a huge secret room somewhere on the planet Earth where people meet to screw up our minds with various rules.

They can take their rules and shove them where the sun don't shine........or is that Sun? Yep........right up Theiranus which is a sister Planet to Uranus.

Terra Shield said...

I never noticed how cruel we have been to our one and only home.

Crystal Pistol said...

I will hence forth always capitalize Earth. It's only fair. this is my way of rebelling against The Man. I'm sure it's a MAN responsible... Hmph!

Duncan D. Horne - the Kuantan blogger said...

funny that, now that you mention it! Our marvellous Earth should always have a capital!

Theresa Milstein said...

The earth not being capitalized has always bugged me too.

As for Valentine's Day, I like an excuse to go out. It's all about good food.

Shelly said...

Hmmm. I think it might be kind of fun to try Jupiter for a while...

Wendy Ramer, Professor said...

The moon provides the earth with Swiss (capitalized) cheese :-)

Mykuljay said...

Now you're playing with me prof'. Swiss being capitalized I get but in your sentence why isn't Earth? Damn. I'm Just Going To Capitalize Everything.

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

"We're not taking care of the Earth like we should...we are treating it like dirt? "

Did I use the right grammar? :-)