Calling occupants of interplanetary craft

by Colin McIntosh​
interplanetary craft
Are you a fan of shows like Doctor Who and Star Trek? Both shows have been around since the 1960s, and, not surprisingly, have generated some of their own vocabulary, some of which has now entered the Cambridge English Dictionary.

The phenomenon of fandom, meaning “the state of being a fan of someone or something, especially a very enthusiastic one”, is a fairly recent one, but the things that these new fans are fans of are often far from new. The fans of the 50-year-old Doctor Who and Star Trek even have names for themselves, Whovians and Trekkies. These fanboys and fangirls (an informal and slightly derogatory way to refer to these over-enthusiastic fans) attend conventions and get involved in cosplay (dressing up as characters from the shows). Russell T. Davies, a writer and TV producer, was one such fanboy who later went on to become the first producer of the relaunched Doctor Who in the 21st century.

In  Doctor Who, the Tardis (or TARDIS) is a vehicle used by the Doctor to travel through time. It is an abbreviation of Time and Relative Dimension in Space. It looks like a smallish, blue telephone box from the outside but is like a large spacecraft on the inside. It has penetrated the public consciousness to such an extent that it is used in British English to talk about something that is much larger inside than it appears to be from the outside, especially a house or apartment:

Many a home is a Tardis, looking small outside, but spacious within.

Star Trek is responsible for popularizing, though not actually inventing, the term wormhole, a special type of structure that some scientists think might actually exist, connecting parts of space and time that are not usually connected. For example, the Bajoran wormhole is discovered in the first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It connects the Bajor-B’Hava’el system in the Alpha Quadrant to the Idran system in the Gamma Quadrant, which are 70,000 light years apart.

The Transporter is a teleporting device on Star Trek. Transporters convert a person or object into energy then “beam” it to a target, where it is converted back into matter. The phrase “beam me up, Scotty” is often used (though Star Trek fanboys and fangirls will protest that it is an inaccurate quotation) to say that you wish you were somewhere else:

This party is really boring! Beam me up, Scotty!

But perhaps Star Trek’s greatest contribution to the English language is the split infinitive. These words opened every episode of the series: “These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise; its five-year mission: […] to boldly go where no man has gone before.” The split infinitive, in this case separating the “to” from the “go” with the adverb “boldly”, is perhaps seen as less of a shameful mistake in English grammar nowadays than it used to be, no doubt thanks to the influence of Star Trek.