PLUTONS!….The world’s astronomers have been unable for years to decide whether Pluto is really a planet or not. On the one hand, it’s basically not a planet by all the normal criteria. On the other hand, they’re afraid of being ripped to pieces by gangs of angry children if they stick to their guns and reclassify Pluto as a random iceball.

So, in a compromise worthy of the UN Security Council, a recently formed committee has proposed the creation of a new category of objects called “plutons.” It’s a floor wax and a dessert topping!

[Richard] Binzel and other committee members stressed that categorizing Pluto as a pluton was in no way meant to downgrade its longtime status as the ninth planet.

“We might be demoting it from the list of eight classical planets, but we’re promoting it by making it the head of its own special class,” said Owen Gingerich of Harvard University, who chaired the panel.

Am I the only one who thinks this sounds like something even a second grader wouldn’t fall for? Even a dumb second grader? “No, you won’t be going to regular third grade with the rest of your friends next year, Billy. You’ll be going to second grade again. A special second grade!”

I just want to go on record as saying that this is one of the most dimwitted proposals I’ve heard in a long time. It’s craven and calculated, it’s going to confuse everyone, and it creates God knows how many new “planets.” At least three ? including that lyrically named favorite of lovers everywhere, UB313 ? and maybe dozens depending on how many more big slushballs we discover in the future.

And what are they afraid of, anyway? The dinosaur folks managed to change the name of the brontosaurus to apatosaurus and lived to tell the tale. Surely astronomers can work up the courage to disappoint their nieces and nephews too?

UPDATE: Besides, doesn’t “pluton” sound like a subatomic particle, not an astronomical body?