Geek Trivia: The Quibble of the Week for March 25

An astronaut by any other name...

If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of this week's Geek Trivia, just post it in the discussion area of the article. Every week, yours truly will choose the best quibble from our assembled masses and discuss it in a future edition of Geek Trivia.

This week's quibble comes from the Mar. 12, 2008 edition of Geek Trivia, "Launching a radio star." Member Roc32k disputed my label of astronaut for the first Briton in space:

"Since Ms. Sharman flew on a Russian Soyuz mission, would she be considered an astronaut or a cosmonaut?"

Member boomchuck1 had the answer on hand in record time:

"I think it would depend on what the UK would refer to her as. Americans who fly on Soyuz are still considered astronauts. If the Brits want to call them Star Voyagers I think they could. But I think Cosmonaut would only apply to a Russian/Soviet Union space traveler."

Quite right, dear reader. It really comes down to the sponsoring body that pins on the spaceflight wings, though you are right to be suspicious of media designations. For example, Western media often call Chinese space travelers taikonauts, but the Chinese themselves use the term yuhangyuan, which is Mandarin for space navigator. Thanks for the opportunity to exhaust my knowledge of Chinese vocabulary, and keep those quibbles comin'!

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By Jay Garmon

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...