In Case You Were Wondering…

I was in…probably seventh grade. 

The boring science teacher was droning on about the solar system.

He pointed to a chart and slowly read out each planet’s name: 



And that’s where the snickering started.

The snickering almost drowned out the teacher’s recitation of the remaining planet’s names:


What was so funny? I wondered.

I was later to learn that the teacher had pronounced “Uranus” as many people do:


And, since I needed to know this for a test, I learned to pronounce it that way, too.

Sidebar:  Yes, the teacher included Pluto as one of the planets – it didn’t lose its planet status until 2006.  Which it now appears is up for debate:

Anyway, I didn’t get the joke until years later, maybe in high school biology, where I first heard the word “anus,” a part of the gastrointestinal system.

And it was referred to by many as the “asshole.” 


“Your-ANUS!  I get it!”  Snicker, snicker!

After that, when Uranus occasionally made the news, like in this old article:

I could join in with the snickering. 

“Dark rings of Your-ANUS!”  Snicker, snicker!

Then came the day I saw a scientist interviewed on TV, and he pronounced the planet’s name “YOOR-un-us.”

“He’s pretty dumb for a scientist,” I thought.

Eventually I learned that I was the dummy, and that the correct pronunciation is, in fact, “YOOR-un-us.”

So, life went on, I knew how to correctly pronounce “Uranus,” and I didn’t think much about it.

Until recently, when a very small article in the newspaper (right) caught my attention:

“Chemical processes in the deep interior of Uranus.”

I resisted the temptation to snicker and instead wondered, “Why is Your-un-us pronounced that way, and who the heck came up with that name in the first place…

“And why?”

Research time.

I learned that Uranus makes serious headlines, like this:

And this:

And this:

Oh, come on – that last one?  You didn’t snicker…even a little?

Well, some people are still snickering over the planet’s name, like here:

But this serious article answered my why? and who? and why?

“The first six planets in the solar system have been visible to observers throughout human history and were named for Roman gods.  But because it orbits so far from the sun, Uranus was not visible with the naked eye.  In fact, it is the first planet officially identified with a telescope.”

“Sir William Herschel found the seventh planet on March 13, 1781, while scouring the night sky for comets…Ultimately, German astronomer Johann Elert Bode (whose observations helped to establish the new object as a planet) named Uranus after an ancient Greek god of the sky.  Bode argued that as Saturn was the father of Jupiter, the new planet should be named for the father of Saturn.  Uranus is also the only planet to be named after a Greek god rather than a Roman one.”

I picked up more facts about Uranus from this website:

“The seventh planet from the Sun with the third largest diameter in our solar system, Uranus is very cold and windy.  The ice giant is surrounded by 13 faint rings and 27 small moons as it rotates at a nearly 90-degree angle from the plane of its orbit.  This unique tilt makes Uranus appear to spin on its side, orbiting the Sun like a rolling ball.”

“With a radius of 15,759.2 miles, Uranus is four times wider than Earth.  If Earth was the size of a nickel, Uranus would be about as big as a softball.”

While I was online, I decided to look for a description of “anus” besides “asshole”:

That “anus” research also led here, where it appears “Anus” is a baby name option:

And a family name option:

And is, in fact, the family name of this man:

Note the headline below (snicker, snicker):

According to the article:

“Political candidate Luc Anus is standing as a council candidate in Lobbes, south Belgium, but when someone posted a photo of his election poster online, he decided he would have to change his name.

“He is now listed as ‘Luc Anu’ on the social media site, with Luc telling local reporters:  ‘Facebook just does not accept my name.’”

And speaking of headlines, I’ll confess that despite all my new-gained knowledge, and my undoubted sophistication, and the fact that I’m not really a snickering kind of person…

I’ll finish this with true confession time:

I did snicker when I saw this headline:

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