pluto (v) – to demote or devalue something (as happened to the former planet Pluto when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto no longer met its definition of a planet and demoted it to its present status as a ‘dwarf planet’ or a ‘plutoid’.)
The decision to recognize this new meaning for the word ‘pluto’ was made by the American Dialect Society, a noble institution that has been nitpicking word usage for 117 years. ‘Pluto’ was their 2006 word of the year.
In my helter-skelter stabs at going back to the beginning to reorganize and revise, I came across this inspired little piece of writing which I think is worth sharing one more time.
Pluto Has Been Demoted!
At first I didn’t know if my feelings of sadness were justified when I heard this ground breaking news. Somewhere in the back of my mind I could not help thinking that astronomers just might have way too much time on their hands. Being no stranger to that state of being myself, I decided to go directly to Pluto and conduct an exit interview with the demoted planet to find out for myself.
Me: Pluto, how are you feeling today about not making the cut?
Pluto: Why, thank you for asking. Not too many parties have been interested in my feelings about being stripped of my previous planetary status. I’m used to being treated a little differently. I was of course the smallest planet, and I’m now considered to be a “dwarf planet” instead of a “classical”, so really, in the grand scheme of things, not much has changed. I’m just surprised that 2500 astronomers were able to get together and actually agree on something.
Me: Were you taken by surprise by the announcement, or was this something that you expected might happen?
Pluto: I always felt that this kind of thing might very well occur at some point. It’s common knowledge in the astronomical world that no matter how hard I tried to bulk up, I never did have sufficient mass for my self gravity to overcome rigid body forces and assume a nearly round shape. I was unable to clear the neighbourhood around my orbit.
Me: I have no idea what that means.
Pluto: Neither do I. It’s all in the new definition, though. I can comfort myself with the fact that I did nothing different and nothing essentially wrong as far as being a planet goes. I did my best, but when you don’t know the rules are being changed it’s hard to prepare yourself for every eventuality. If you know what I mean.
Me: Um, yeah. So! What kind of feedback are you getting from the other planets concerning your situation?
Pluto: Neptune has been telling me for eons to stay the hell out of his orbit, so he’s quite pleased with the outcome of the vote. He thought I should have been demoted even further to maybe an asteroid, or even a lowly comet. The rest of the planets have been very sympathetic. Oh yeah – except for Uranus, who, by the way, is very aptly named. He mooned me.
Me: Seriously! That seems unnecessarily rude, somehow.
Pluto: Why? You can always use another moon.
Me: Oh. I see. Of course. When you first heard about this conference, did you find yourself hoping at all for the alternative definition to be chosen?
Pluto: To tell you the truth, I’m not sure. If it had been chosen, it would have meant another 53 possible planets, and we’ve all seen what happened with the expansion of the NHL. The original six have been swallowed whole. I must admit, it might have been nice to have my moon, Charon, join me in the old boys club. The asteroid Ceres, of course, has been demoted once already, so this was sort of old hat for him. Alas, no matter what my wishes, the alternate definition was not to be. I can only say that I feel honored to have been a small part of this elite group, even for such a short time. I learned a lot about myself. I take with me a wealth of experiences and new skills into my uncertain future.
Me: You sound like an ousted idol contestant.
Pluto: I was just trying to put it into some kind of context that would be easy for you to understand.
Me: Thank you for that. Pluto, tell me, what do you think this whole experience has been like for Xena?
Pluto: Ahhh. Xena. The hot new chick in the solar system. So recently discovered, and so quickly disregarded. She has been understandably miffed. Watch the heavens for further developments. A woman scorned, and all that kind of thing.
Me: That sounds rather ominous. Can I consider this an exclusive scoop, or have you divulged this information to anyone else?
Pluto: Funny you should ask, because yes, you are not the first one to interview me as a matter of fact. The Martians are generally always a couple of jumps ahead of you Earthlings. I expect they’ll handle Xena before you even realize there’s a problem.
Me: That’s good to know. I guess. So, Pluto, when all is said and done, do you have any regrets?
Pluto: Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention.
Me: Ummm – that’s song lyrics.
Pluto: I KNOW!! Aren’t they great? I wrote them!
Me: You wrote them…..
Pluto: Yes! I’ve been composing song lyrics for light years! When they’re finished I beam them off to the various planets and see what happens! The residents of Mercury and Venus are pretty much fried and nothing ever comes back to me from there, but people on earth as a rule have been quite receptive. They just take my ideas and run with them.
Me: So, you’re telling me that you have been a source of inspiration to the people on earth, as well as across the solar system?
Pluto: I do hate to brag, but yes, that is true. Now that earth people have demoted me however, I feel decidedly averse to being of any further assistance to them in their creative musical endeavours. Expect a sharp drop in the quality of song lyrics in the next millennium. You have my permission to tell everyone that demoting Pluto caused this decline.
Me: I can’t imagine anyone would believe me if I said that.
Pluto: Lack of imagination has always been one of your biggest downfalls. Look at that dreadful mnemonic device you people use to recall the positions of the planets from the sun – My Very Eccentric Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas. Or parakeets, or whatever it was. Well, nix on the “P” word, and you’ll have to dream up a new one now because you don’t have me to kick around anymore……… YO!!! XENA!! HOLD UP THERE BABE, WE NEED TO TALK!! …..Sorry, I gotta run. I heard Xena has this thing for dwarves. It’s been nice talking to you.
Me: Pluto, I can’t express how enlightening this interview has been for…..
Pluto: You bet! I’d love to discuss the essence of the cosmos again sometime. Maybe at the next conference? Catch ya later.
Me: Okay…. well, thanks! GOODBYE! <sigh> He seems like such a nice guy. Let’s see….Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune…. (and no Pluto). Already I miss him.Somehow it just doesn’t seem right.
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