So which is it? How do you pronounce Gemini?
In âFirst Man,â the new film about the Neil Armstrong and the moon landing, astronauts and NASA officials say âGEM-uh-knee.â But the first pronunciation in the Websterâs New World College Dictionary Fifth Edition, the standard work used by The New York Times to settle such matters, the first pronunciation is GEM-uh-neye,â which is the way many of us say it. Or, to use the precise dictionary typography, jemâ²É nÄ«Î versus jemâ²ÉnÄÎ.
Really, though, which is right?
The 10 crewed missions of the Gemini program, with capsules that carried two people into space in 1965 and 1966, never got the attention that the programs before and after it received. Mercury and the seven original astronauts had Tom Wolfe as chronicler in âThe Right Stuff.â Apollo had the triumph of the Moon landing, the tragedy of Apollo 1 and the nail-biting return of crippled Apollo 13.
Gemini, by contrast, is the middle child of the early space program, eager to please but apt to be ignored. And when it comes to saying the name aloud, there has always been some knee-eye confusion. In this newspaper, a seemingly authoritative 1965 article tried to resolve the ârunning debateâ with a statement from NASA that the proper pronunciation is ââJiminy,â as in âJiminy Cricket.ââ
On Tuesday, Bob Jacobs, a spokesman for NASA, said that the âkneeâ pronunciation is part of the agencyâs culture, and serves almost as an insiderâs shibboleth â a word whose proper delivery identifies you as someone in the know. âIf you get it right,â he said, âyouâre part of the space club.â He likened it to the Nashville street Demonbreun, which is pronounced Da-MUN-bree-un, and not like what some have characterized as âdemon pickle juice.â Mr. Jacobs also suggested that the pronunciation could have to do with the early space programâs Southernness, in the way that âevery pilot speaks like Chuck Yeager.â
And yet it wasnât always so clear, said Bill Barry, the space agencyâs chief historian. Back in the time of the Gemini program, âit kind of depended who you were talking to, and what day of the week it was,â and even varied from NASA locations, he said.
For âFirst Man,â NASA arranged a meeting between the filmâs star, Ryan Gosling, and Michael Collins, a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Taking the opportunity, Dr. Barry asked Mr. Collins to resolve the question. âHe kind of gets this twinkle in his eye,â he recalled. âHe used the word âGeminiâ twice in his answer â and he pronounced it both ways.â
As for the filmmakers, Dr. Barry said that he suggested to them that for the sake of clarity, they pick one pronunciation and stick with it. âFrom my perspective, from 50 years later, whichever you want to use is fine.â