Stories about the official approval last September of the name of “Chiayi” for an asteroid/planetoid/minor planet (not to be confused with Pluto, the “dwarf planet“) discovered by astronomers with Taiwan’s National Central University drew my attention to the fact that another minor planet already bears the name of the university — and that they named it using Tongyong Pinyin: “Jhongda” (i.e., Zhōng-Dà, the short form of the school’s name in Mandarin, Guólì Zhōngyāng Dàxué).
There are plenty of planetoids bearing names in Hanyu Pinyin, e.g. Chongqing, Guangzhou, Guizhou, Beijingdaxue [i.e., Beijing Daxue], Beishida [i.e., Bei-Shi-Da], and Zirankexuejijin [i.e., Ziran Kexue Jijin].
Omitting spaces is common in the names as a whole, though some of them have spaces. And some have hyphens.
Although the statistics of diacritical characters in minor planets’ names (a list after my own heart) shows that, as of June 1997, 667 (4.83%) of the 13,805 named minor planets had diacritical characters in their names, I didn’t spot any Hanyu Pinyin names with tone marks. The mark for first tone doesn’t appear on the list even once.
I wish they’d followed Tongyong when naming asteroid Chiayi, because that way they would have ended up with the same spelling that Hanyu Pinyin uses: Jiayi. But I guess the solar system’s big enough for Wade-Giles as well.
Here are some Google search figures from Taiwan government domains.
- 532 from gov.tw domains for “chia-i”
- 1,380 from gov.tw domains for “jiayi”
- 2,660 from gov.tw domains for “chia-yi”
- 997,000 from gov.tw domains for “chiayi”
Should Ma Ying-jeou win next month’s presidential election in Taiwan, both the executive and legislative branches of government would be in the hands of the no-longer-opposed-to-Hanyu-Pinyin Kuomintang, and the national folly of Tongyong Pinyin could soon cease to exist as an official system not just in Taiwan but everywhere throughout the known universe … except on planetoid no. 145534 (“Jhongda”), a big chunk of rock in orbit somewhere past Mars.
- Minor planet officially named ‘Chiayi’, Taipei Times, October 17, 2007
- Lulin Observatory names newly-found planet after Chiayi, China Post, October 16, 2007
- Minor Planet Names: Alphabetical List
- International Astronomical Union Minor Planet Center
- Statistics of Diacritical Characters in Minor Planets Names, Laboratory of Small Bodies of the Solar System