Reader J.C. comments on my post about the demotion of the planet formerly known as Pluto–and the fact that in the process the International Astronomical Union seemed to put the kibosh on naming new heavenly bodies after trendy Third World gods and goddesses (such as “Sedna”) instead of the classical deities after whom the planets, stars, and constellations have been named for thousands of years (see my “No More PC Planets,” Sept. 14):

“You don’t know the worst! Forget the relatively sedate and sane Sedna. What about Quaoar? A goddess of an obscure and possibly extinct tribe native to California. It’s a four-in-one: non-Western, hits the Native American guilt button, feminist, AND opposes the tyranny of English with a word that’s almost unspellable!”

Ah, yes Quaoar. Not only is the name of this midget “planet” discovered in 2002 almost unspellable; it’s almost unpronounceable. I’d thought it was pronounced “Kwore:”–or maybe (a la francais) “Ka-war”–or maybe “Kwower” or “Kwoor.” Wrong on all counts–it’s “Kua-ore.”

I had skipped Quaoar, which is about half the size of Pluto in diameter and much smaller than our moon, because frankly, the name sounded to me like something out of a computer game. I was wrong: Quaoar is actually the name of a deity sacred to the Tongva people (that’s the new politically correct name for the San Gabrieleno Indians of Southern Calfornia). The bad news is that Quaoar doesn’t actually seem to be a goddess, which might be frustrating to the goddess-people; but the good news is that’s he’s something even better: he’s unisex. Here’s the scoop on him:

“‘Quaoar’ the great force of creation sings and dances the high ones (Deities) into existence. While Quaoar has no form or gender he is usually referred to with the male pronoun. He dances and sings first ‘Weywot’ who becomes Sky Father; they sing and dance ‘Chehooit’ Earth Mother into existence. The trio sing ‘Tamit’ Grandfather Sun to life. As each divine one joins the singing and dancing, the song becomes more complex and the dance more complicated. In turn ‘Moar’, Grandmother Moon (a very complex deity), ‘Pamit’ the Goddess of the sea, ‘Manit’, the Lord of dreams and visions, ‘Manisar’ the bringer of food and harvests, ‘Tukupar Itar’ Sky Coyote (who is also our major hero), ‘Tolmalok’, the Goddess of Shishongna (the underworld) join in the singing, dancing and creating. And finally the great seven giants who hold up the worlds are created. The High Ones in turn are aided by ‘Eagle, Duck, Bear, and Frog’ in a grand earth diving story. Frog brings up soil out of the deep dark sea, and the four animals dance it flat and wide. The ‘Gods and Goddesses’ then furnish the world ‘Tovangar’ with hills, mountains, trees, rivers, etc. ‘Tobohar’ (first man) and ‘Pahavit’ (first woman) are also part of this great ‘Creation song and dance cycle’.”

Now, sad to say, Quaoar will be singing and dancing himself, Pluto, and Sedna out of planetary existence and into a new monicker: big rock.