One day, we’re going to make friends with intelligent creatures from another world. And we won’t want to keep calling them “aliens,” because they’ll be living among us or we’ll be living among them. So what do we use as a term to describe both intelligent aliens and humans. What do we all call ourselves?
Watching science fiction movies, I’ve come to realize that they’re missing a word — and it’s not a minor word. It’s a word that both serves the story, and that we’re eventually going to need. Most movies that deal with aliens deal in “us and them.” When the characters are talking, they’re talking about either humans or aliens. Though both are clearly sentient beings, they’re not included in the same group. Even movies set in times during which humans and aliens are integrated don’t tend to have an inclusive term. We’re not aliens, they’re not humans. Is there a term for all of us?
My first instinct on this is calling us all, “people,” or “folk.” The word “human” has a biological connotation that can’t apply to aliens – who have evolved on another planet. Although “people” or “folk” are similar to “human,” they aren’t tied to biology. I believe we already make distinctions like that in fiction. Everyone would agree that Superman isn’t human, but few would say that he’s not a person. As for “folk,” that word’s often used to denote non-human sentient beings in, well, folktales. I grew up reading stories about leprechauns and fairies referred to as “folk.”
My second thought would be to adapt an existing word to help get across the concept of why all kinds of different species should be covered by one term. The defining point 0f all those species would be sentience. We’re self-aware, and able to express and build on that self-awareness, in a way that other Earth species can’t. I thought we could called Earthlings and aliens combined “sentients.” That’s a bit clunky, though, since it sounds so much like the word “sentience.”
There’s also no special reason to use an English word for a concept that is meant to be literally universal. Maybe we need to just get out some Scrabble tiles, or a linguistics expert, and come up with some random word that all languages can pronounce. I don’t have Scrabble in the house (or a linguistics expert) so I went to a random letter generator, and got, “whbwmcy.”
So at this point I suppose it’s time to ask for other suggestions. So at this point we don’t have a clue, any ideas!