Ancient Names: Say It Like You Mean It

Star and Constellation Names are of Ancient Origin

The Constellation Taurus can be traced back to Babylonian times about 6,000 years ago.  Taurus was the location of the Vernal Equinox from 4,000 BC to 1700 BC.  All ancient astronomy texts used Taurus as a marker for the New Year.  Many star and constellation names have ancient origins and the correct pronunciations have been mangled over time.  We should keep in mind that we can change the meaning of a word through mispronunciation.

Vega, Betelgeuse, Eridanus, Dubhe, Enceladus and Zubenelgenubi

Vega, Betelgeuse, Eridanus, Dubhe, Enceladus and Zubenelgenubi area all commonly mispronounced names simply because they are foreign words and the roots of the name are not passed down the generations. Vega is the modern spelling of the ancient WEEGA, the Arabic word for Swooping/Falling Eagle.  Vega is the brightest star in Lyra and symbolizes an Eagle holding the ancient musical instrument as a companion of Aquila the Eagle.  The proper pronunciation is VEE’ GA.

Betelgeuse is the modern spelling of BET’ EL JAUZA, Arabic for house of the Central One.  Correctly pronounced BET’ EL JUZ.

Eridanus is the Latin name of the Po River in Italy.  Correct pronunciation is: EE RID’ AH NUS.

Dubhe is Arabic for Bear.  Correctly pronounced DUBB’ EE.

Enceladus is a Greek Titan that causes Earthquakes and Volcanoes is pronounced EN CEL’ A DUS.

Zubenelgenubi is Arabic for “Southern Claw”.  This star was a part of Scorpius in ancient times.  In time, we redrew Scorpius and gave the star to Libra.  Yet kept the name.  Pronounced ZU BEN’ EL JE NU BEE.

Anglicization of Arabic, Greek or Latin is Common

But, we lose the roots and origins of the name if we do that.  For example, Vega pronounced VAY’ GA is the name of a cigar.  We lost the eagle context.  BEE’ TEL JUICE is meaningless except for the movie connotation.  AIR EE DA’ NUS infers songs about a Celtic hero.  Historic River?  Dubhe pronounced DUB HAY or DOOB AYE means Money.  What happened to the Bear?  Commonly mispronounced EN’ SEL A’ DUS as if it were Spanish, the Greek Titan is jolted from memory.

Star Wars transliterated Zubenelgenubi into Obi-Wan Kenobi, aka Old Ben Kenobi.  That can be forgiven as fanciful modern fiction.  But, a reference to ancient origins could be illuminating.  May the Force be with the Southern Claw!


Image credit: Cassini Orbiter, Cassini-Huygens Mission, NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

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