innocuously named

Ahmed Samir Darwish

Senior Member
Arabic
In Earth System Science: A Very Short Introduction, by Tim Lenton, the author discusses the exoplanets:

As of late 2014, the closest candidate for an Earth twin is the rather innocuously named Kepler-186f—a planet with roughly 1.1 times the Earth’s radius orbiting a typical M-type star. Kepler-186f is the outermost of five planets, orbiting its star at about 40 per cent of the distance of the Earth from the Sun.

I found that it may mean "not offensive", but why did the author mention it in this context?
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Lenton probably used innocuously named to mean that Kepler-186f is a boring name. This definition for innocuous from our dictionary may be helpful:

    not interesting, stimulating, or significant;
    pallid;
    insipid: an innocuous novel.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Here is the Random House definition. The OP use is tending toward the second one. It's a more figurative sense of harmless.

    in•noc•u•ous /ɪˈnɑkyuəs/ adj.
    1. not harmful;
      harmless: innocuous home medicine.
    2. not likely to irritate;
      inoffensive: just an innocuous remark about the weather.
    I think the OP is using it in the sense of bland and unmemorable. Bland things don't irritate.

    In this exact context I'd say it means for something as potentially important as a twin to planet Earth, it has a bland, forgettable name. It's not called something like Krypton. It sounds like a computer-generated label.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Nevertheless, if I had to choose another way of expressing it in that sentence, I’d still use harmless: the rather harmless-sounding Kepler-186f.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Yeah, I don't think I would use that because I don't think that's the intended meaning. I'd probably use blandly.

    - the closest candidate for an Earth twin is the rather blandly named Kepler-186f

    Prosaically or unimaginatively are other possibilities.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    How does one decide whether a planet name (like "Kepler-186f") is harmless or non-harmless?
    As far as I know, there has never been a case of a planet name causing harm to anyone.

    Or if you prefer "bland", how does one decide whether a planet name is bland or non-bland?
    Are there other planet names that are more exciting? Would "Kepler-191k" (ooh!) be more exciting?

    I am not suggesting that Tim Lenton used the word "innocuously" with some other meaning.
    I am suggesting that Tim Lenton using the word in this sentence is idiotic.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I read it as "boringly" or "mundanely" named. Some planets have exciting names like "Mercury" or "Venus". Others have boring names like "Kepler-186f", that is "planet f orbiting Kepler-186".

    While I don't think it's idiotic, it does seem a bit of a pointless comment. Almost every known planet has an equally mundane name.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I found that it may mean "not offensive", but why did the author mention it in this context?
    It does mean that. But you shouldn’t take it literally. The word innocuous literally means harmless and the two are often interchangeable, but in figurative use neither of them relates to actual harm. They can both be used to mean something like tame – again in its figurative sense of uncontroversial or unremarkable.
     
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