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You're Not Meant to Capitalize Star Wars' 'tauntaun'—and There's a Suitably Weird Reason Why

A poor tauntaun, ready to face even more injustices.
A poor tauntaun, ready to face even more injustices.
Image: Lucasfilm

Welcome, friends, to what is becoming a recurring occasion where I just talk about silly Star Wars linguistics, apparently. Over the weekend, Lucasfilm story group member Matt Martin blew my mind with a shocking revelation: The Empire Strikes Back’s Tauntauns aren’t Tauntauns.

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They’re...tauntauns.

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As Martin went on to explain, he wasn’t correcting people who have dared to defy Star Wars’s official glossary inadvertently all these years, because, well, gatekeeping such an odd thing in the first place would be weird. He was just hoping to shine a light on the kinds of bizarre things Lucasfilm’s story group has to keep in mind while shaping and maintaining the Star Wars world as we know it. It’s not just about making sure the timeline all tracks up and that it’s Mitth’raw’nurodo, not Mitth’rawn’nuro’do or what have you, but dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s of a terminology far, far away. The Jedi librarians of our world, if you will: same love of books, just without the lightsabers.

But it’s not that such a vast franchise of interconnected texts has its own wretched hive of copy editors and fact checkers that is mindblowing here, but the reason as to why you don’t capitalize tauntaun. It’s because the denizens of the Star Wars galaxy don’t consider these proud, smelly steeds to be sentient beings.

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What the hell, Star Wars? What the hell.

You capitalize most Star Wars aliens and beings we know of—Bith, Twi’lek, Chiss, Gungan. Humans, outside of the start of a sentence presumably, are not, because collectively Star Wars humans aren’t considered a collective unit with a singular home like we are: humans from Coruscant are Coruscanti, humans from Corellia are Corellians, humans from Naboo are the Naboo, and so on. The peoples of the Star Wars galaxy just...don’t consider tauntauns sentient beings, which is probably why Han’s totally fine going “congrats on not freezing before the first marker fluffy pal, just gonna gut your corpse and use it as a sleeping bag” and being as ethically satisfied as any scruffy lookin’ nerfherder might be. Oh god, poor nerfs. And porgs. No wonder Chewie wanted to eat one!

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Continuing to speak to the Star Wars galaxy’s gross attitudes to various lifeforms, Martin also noted in the replies to his tweet that this is why Droids are in fact droids (outside of the most lucrative Star Wars source of all, of course: product packaging), because humans and other self-aware species are really not cool a lot of the time.

So yes. Next time you go to tweet about the best Star Wars creature (sorry, again, to porgs), remember to keep that lower case intact. Because Star Wars nerds of all know that there’s nothing more correct than being grammatically correct!

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James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

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DISCUSSION

I mean, it’s not a weird reason at all. On the contrary, it makes perfect sense. They are animals, and we don’t capitalize animal names. We talk about horses, camels, cows, cats, dogs, lions, tigers and bears, oh my! Not Horses, Camels, Cows, etc., unless you are talking about sports teams (like the Pitsburgh’s Penguins and the Florida Panthers). So it makes sense that people in Star Wars would talk about dewbacks and tauntauns and rancors and mynocks and gundarks. It’s not gross or awful, it’s just grammatical consistency.