Just Curious

Please state the answer in the form of a question... Just Curious is the occassional blog of Andrew Nelson. In an attempt to balance the polemical tone of most of the blogosphere, all entries hope to pose at least one useful question. Many entries simply advance useful memes. Personal entries may abandon the interrogative conceit.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

what does it mean to be Plutoed?

I was recently listening to the "On Word with John Ciardi" podcast from NPR. The late Mr. Ciardi pointed out that "the lion's share" properly means "all," not "a lot," in reference to this fable -- but confusion over the term's meaning was so pervasive that if you meant it to use "all," you would probably be corrected. This frustrated me, because I specifically like the sort of "all" that the fable implies. The lion creates a show of fairness by dividing the meat, but bends the rules to claim the whole carcass -- this is a practice that is so common that we could use an expression for it.

I wonder if we're in a similar situation with "Pluto." Now, I'm of the opinion that the International Astronomy Union made the right call to demote the little guy. But I also agree that the "dwarf planet" category is a little ridiculous, especially since it violates scientific laws of *linguistics* (see this article in the Trib -- though you could also make the argument that "dwarf" is being used in the same sense as "false" or "pseudo). Given all the press the IAU's decision has gotten, plus the generally pro-Pluto popular sentiment, it seems likely that we might see "Plutoed" being used as a verb in the sense it is here.

But perhaps we could make it even more specific. I would propose that "to be Plutoed" should mean to be demoted or belittled through the creation of a special category that seems to preserve one's status but is actually meaningless. (For example, adding "emeritus" to one's title.)