I was discussing My Little Pony with my nine-year-old niece one day (you know, like most of us do) and we turned to the topic of winged unicorns.
I called them by the name which I have always used “pegacorn”, a simple portmanteau of “pegasus” and “unicorn”. She looked at me blankly and said that name was wrong; in fact they were called “alicorns”. I returned her look with one of confusion and insisted that I was correct and she was misinformed. The discussion continued for quite a while, each of us rationally spelling out our reasons for the word and its etymological history. Actually, this formal retelling of our discussion is misleading since the real conversation was much more animated and contained more use of the Robert’s Rules of Order-approved phrase “you’re crazy!”
We were unable to come to an agreement about the proper terminology when I remembered that I had a connection to one of the writers of the current My Little Pony comic book series. I told my niece that we could write to him and ask his opinion. We both agreed to abide by his decision.
After sending a carefully composed and mutually agreed upon email and several minutes of nail-biting tension, we got our answer. The writer explained that when writing the comic, he always used the term….alicorn.
I was crushed. My niece was ecstatic.
A Good Idea: Choose wisely when naming something to avoid confusion and bickering. It turns out that “alicorn” is an older term for a unicorn’s horn, which just makes me want to fire up our debate again. Also, if you’re going to argue with a nine-year-old girl, be sure not to lose the argument. They will never let you live it down.