Ian Andreas Miller. Originally posted on 21 January 2002, revised 5 May 2004.
The Sereniti in the names of several of the characters from Bishjo Senshi Sr Mn has given people trouble over the years. One of the characters who has the Sereniti in her name is the queen of the Silver Millennium on the moon. The queen’s daughter also has the Sereniti in her name. That daughter is reincarnated and she becomes a queen on Earth who also has the Sereniti in her name. The daughter of that queen of the Earth, who is often known as Chibi Usa, also has a name that contains the in it. We should understand that Sereniti can approximate the word serenity1. Some fans have pointed out that the Sereniti in the characters’ can also approximate selenity. Unfortunately, Naoko Takeuchi, the creator of the characters has not indicated what spelling she meant. At least one Web site says that there are arguments for both spellings, but we should not automatically conclude that both spellings are equally likely to be intended. This article shows why it is more likely that that Ms. Takeuchi meant the names to be Serenity instead of Selenity. It examines pieces of evidence that many other Serenity-Selenity articles fail to present.
Why Can Approximate Serenity and Selenity
We should be able to understand why Sereniti can approximate Serenity and Selenity before we examine the two words more closely. There is a sound that is used in the Japanese language that we usually transliterate as r in Roman letters. Linguists refer to that sound as the alveolar tap2. (The Japanese language does not use the English r sound or the English l sound3.) When the alveolar tap is used in the Japanese language, it can approximate non-Japanese l sounds and r sounds. The Japanese can use that sound to approximate the r sound in serenity. If selenity is supposed to sound similar to serenity, but the main difference is that selenity has an l sound instead of an r sound, then Sereniti can approximate both Serenity and Selenity.
Ms. Takeuchi might have meant one of the characters to have the name Serenity and one of the characters have the name Selenity. However, itself cannot show us the distinction in the Roman letters.
Many people say that, in the Japanese language, r is interchangeable with l. That is not an accurate description, however. Japanese and English are different languages. They have different sets of sounds. The Japanese scripts Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji do not even use the letters r and l. When the Japanese write a non-Japanese word in Roman letters, and that non-Japanese word is from a language that makes a distinction between the letter r and l, then the letters r and l are not interchangeable in that word even if the Japanese write it. The Japanese language does not use two distinct sounds interchangeably where one sound is usually approximated by the Roman letter r and the other sound is usually approximated by the Roman letter l. Furthermore, the letter r is almost always used to transliterate the alveolar tap when it is used in Japanese4.
Why Serenity Is Relevant to the Characters
Ms. Takeuchi showed in the manga that she intended the Moon Castle of the Silver Millennium of the moon to be located in a certain place on the moon. That place has its name written as Mre Serenitatisu5 in the Japanese script. Those katakana-character combinations appear next to the kanji hare no umi, which is what the Japanese sometimes refer to Mare Serenitatis on the moon6. ( hare no umi literally means sea of fair weather7). Mre Serenitatisu in the manga logically approximates the Latin name Mare Serenitatis8 (Mare Sernittis with the long vowel marks9), which refers to one of the lunar maria. Serenitatis is a grammatical form of serentas10, meaning serenity or fair weather. The most common English translation of that name is Sea of Serenity11. (Sea of Serenity can be written in the Japanese script as Shi ovu Sereniti.) So, Serenity is relevant to the characters because of the name of the location of the Moon Castle in Ms. Takeuchi’s manga. (Unfortunately, Mre Serenitatisu is not mentioned in the anime.)
Selenity and the ity Part
Proponents of Selenity may state that the spelling is related to Selene, the name of a Greek goddess of the moon12. (Selene’s name appears as Serne in the Bishjo Senshi Sr Mn anime and manga sources.13) In classical Greek mythology, Selene had a lover named Endymion. The princess of the Silver Millennium on the moon also had a lover named Endymion, but she did not have the name Selene. She and other people who lived on the moon had long lives, but the princess was not the goddess Selene.
Selenity can be thought of as a combination of the prefix selen-14 (it is related to Selene’s name and it means moon) and the suffix -ity15. Alternatively, Selenity can be an alteration of Selene that can be created by dropping the final e in Selene and replacing that e with ity. If Sereniti is supposed to approximate Selenity, and the letters in Selenity represent sounds that are the same as most (or at least similar to most) of the sounds that are assigned to the corresponding letters of Selene or selen-, then the Sere part of Sereniti most closely approximates the Sele part of Selenity, and the niti part of Sereniti most closely approximates the nity part of Selenity.
The references to Selene and selen- explain the Selen part of Selenity, but they do not explain the need for the ity part. One could claim that the ity is necessary to Selenity (when approximates Selenity) because niti can approximate nity, and the Sere (approximating Sele) goes before niti (approximating nity) so that both parts together fulfill the pronunciation requirements of Sereniti. However, that explanation makes the ity in Selenity serve no other purpose than to make Sereniti approximate Selenity. We should realize that if the Sereniti in the names of the characters is supposed to approximate Selenity (not Selene or selen-), and do not accurately approximate Selene or selen-, Selene or selen- must undergo phonetic and orthographic changes in order to create the Selenity that is approximated by .
Serenity Is Widely-Recognized, but Selenity Is Not
Serenity is a widely-recognized word in English such that many English dictionaries contain entries for it16, but selenity is not as widely-recognized as serenity is in any known language. (Some people may rephrase that by saying that serenity is a “real word” in the sense that it has a spelling that is well-recognized, it has a well-recognized meaning, and it has a well-recognized pronunciation or series of pronunciations.) It is doubtful that selenity will become more widely-recognized than serenity any time soon.
There are plenty of sources out there that would allow Ms. Takeuchi and us to know of the widely-recognized meanings of the word serenity. Since we can cite many wide-recognized meaning of the term from different sources, it is not likely that those definitions are based on our own opinions. We can tell whether Ms. Takeuchi used words that pertain to the meaning of serenity. (That would be rather like how Ms. Takeuchi can corroborate the spelling Three Lights, not Three Rights, by using the kanji that means lights for each of the names of Seiya, Taiki, and Yaten.17) Mre Serenitatisu appears several times in the manga. We are told that the main characters go to Mre Serenitatisu on the moon. That Mre Serenitatisu can approximate the Latin name Mare Serenitatis. The Serenitatis in Mare Serenitatis is usually translated as of Serenity in English. Ms. Takeuchi does use a word in the manga that is pertains to the meaning serenity.
Someone once said in a Usenet message that Selenity is a far more direct reference to the moon than the Sea of Serenity. We have seen that the Selen part of Selenity can be a reference to the moon or the goddess Selene, but Selenity itself does not have a widely-recognized meaning, it does not have a widely-recognized spelling, and it does not have a widely-recognized pronunciation. We do not have the freedom to find sources that would allow Ms. Takeuchi and us to know of the widely-recognized meanings of the word selenity. If we could cite a wide-recognized meaning of the term in several different sources, it would not be likely that our definition is based on our own opinion. Ms. Takeuchi, as far as we know, does not attempt to define such a word. We could come up with a definition of Selenity such that the newly-defined word has a meaning that is relevant to the story, but since our own definition is not widely-recognized and Ms. Takeuchi did not define selenity, it would be impossible to know how accurate our proposed definition would be to the definition that Ms. Takeuchi might come up with. So, it becomes an issue of “let us define selenity using a definition that is not widely-recognized and spectulate about how accurate our definition could be to Ms. Takeuchi’s own definition that is not widely-recognized, either.” If we do not know how Ms. Takeuchi would define the word, we would not be able to know whether or not she used words that pertain to the meaning of that particular word. In that case, how could we honestly say that selenity be a far more direct reference to the moon than the Sea of Serenity?
Serenity Is More Parsimonious Than Selenity
So, according to what we know about the spellings serenity and selenity, is serenity more parsimonious than selenity? Let us review the most important parts of the previous paragraphs.
Some fans claim that the in the names of the characters it meant to approximates Selenity. We would not be able to explain the ity in Selenity with the references to Selene and selen-. If is supposed to approximate Selenity (not Selene or selen-), and do not accurately approximate Selene or selen-, Selene or selen- must undergo phonetic and orthographic changes in order to create the Selenity that is approximated by . Even when we have the Selenity, we are faced with the fact that it does not have a widely-recognized definition. If we cannot cite a wide-recognized meaning of selenity in several different sources, then it is more likely that our definition is based on our own opinions.
Other fans say that the in the names of the characters is meant to approximate Serenity. sereniti more often approximates the word serenity than selenity. Serenity does not need to go through any changes for Sereniti to approximate it. In other words, We do not need to introduce sounds and letters in order to make Sereniti in the names approximate Serenity. We can cite at least one widely-recognized meaning of the word serenity in several difference sources (many dictionaries can help us, for instance), so it is unlikely that those definitions are based on our own opinions.
In this case, Serenity involves fewer terms than Selenity does. According to the what we know about the two spellings, Serenity is the more parsimonious one.
Names and Naming Schemes
We should understand that although a widely-recognized term or phrase might be more parsimonious than one that is not as widely-recognized in certain situations, that does not mean that the widely-recognized ones are more parsimonious all the time. There are situations where we can justify the spelling changes and the creation of a name, term, or phrase that is not widely-recognized because it better follows a naming pattern that includes other names, terms, and phrases that are not widely-recognized. The non-widely-recognized word is not used for any proposed meaning — it is used because other names in the naming scheme also are not widely-recognized.
para para usually is used to describe something falling in drops (it is a well-recognized word in Japanese)18, but when Para Para is used as the name for the blue-haired girl of the Amazones, the name does not necessarily pertain to the widely-recognized word. Her sisters’ names appear in the Japanese script as Sere Sere, Jun Jun, and Besu Besu19. The Materials Collection indicates that the four names come from Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and Vesta (the names of the four largest asteroids in the solar system’s asteroid belt). In this case, we can justify the change from Parasu to Para Para because the change is more relevant to the naming scheme than the widely-recognized Japanese word is. We could write her name as Palla Palla (a phrase that is not as widely-recognized as the Japanese word is) to indicate that it is an alteration of Pallas (where Palla Palla is a reduplication of the Palla of Pallas), but any proposed meaning of Palla Palla and the widely-recognized Japanese word are not as relevant as the naming scheme is.
One could argue that we could use Selenity regardless of any meaning that we could attach to it. However, if Sereniti does not follow any reasonably-ascertainable naming scheme where other names undergo spelling changes into non-widely-recognized names, then the widely-known meaning of serenity is more parsimionous than the lack of even a proposed meaning of selenity. If the Sereniti in the characters’ names is supposed to be an alteration of Selene, then one of the most relevant names is Endymion. The Japanese often use Endimion to approximate Endymion20. Ms. Takeuchi used Endimion for Endymion’s name21. “Endymion” and “King Endymion” appear in the manga books22, so we know that Endymion was not altered. Selene seems to be indicated in the anime and manga, but we cannot tell whether her name is supposed to be altered in any way. The other mythological names (Mars, Jupiter, Uranus) are not altered, either. It does not look as if follows any reasonably-ascertainable naming scheme where other names undergo spelling changes into non-widely-recognized names.
Selenity as a Pun on Serenity
Selenity can be thought of a pun on serenity that can be created from serenity. The r in serenity can be changed to l so that it becomes selenity, which contains a part that resembles Selene. It is likely that Ms. Takeuchi realized that the Sere parts of Sereniti and Serne (which refers to the goddess Selene) are the same. There is also a Sere part in Mre Serenitatisu (usually Mare Serenitatis). If Sere can approximate Sele or Sere, and we are changing the r in serenity to l and come up with selenity (which resembles Selene), we could just as easily change the l in Selene to r and come up with Serene (which resembles serenity), and change the r in Serenitatis to l and come up with Selenitatis (which resembles Selene). Selenitatis is not a recognized word just like Selenity is not a recognized word, and there is no known Greek goddess with the name Serene. (That Serene looks rather like the English word serene, which is not related to the name of the Greek goddess.) If someone says there are “arguments for both” Serenity and Selenity, he or she could say that there are “arguments for both” Selene and Serene, and there are “arguments for both” Serenitatis and Selenitatis. However, notice how Serenity, Selene, and Serenitatis explain the respective katakana-character combinations just as well as Selenity, Serene, and Selenitatis do, but Serenity, Selene, and Serenitatis (which are all well-recognized words) do not need to undergo spelling changes to create Serene, the name of an unknown Greek goddess, and the non-recognized words Selenity and Selenitatis. Serenity, Selene, and Serenitatis are more parsimonious than Selenity, Serene, and Selenitatis are.
It can be argued that is supposed to be a pun because the Sere part can represent the Sere part of Serenity and the Sele part of Selene, and the Selenity spelling retains the pun. However, Selenity cannot retain the pun because its Sele part cannot also represent the Sere part of Serenity. Serenity also does not retain the pun because its Sere part cannot also represent the Sele part of Selenity. The only way that a Roman-letter spelling can retain the pun in the same way that the Sere part of Sereniti can is if we invent a Roman letter that can represent both the Roman letter r and the Roman letter l at same time. Even in this case, serenity is more parsimonious than selenity is because the change in letters is still not necessary.
Could Ms. Takeuchi have changed Selne (Selene) to Sereniti such that she intended Selenity? Although it is possible that she could have done that, there is a part of that proposed alteration that we cannot explain. If Serne was changed to Sereniti, we would be able to explain the change from ne in Serne to the ni in Sereniti. Changing the ne to the ni in this case would be analogous to changing the ne in Selene to the ni in Selenity because the ne approximates the ne in Selene and the ni approximates the ni in Selenity. There is a problem with the change from Serne to Sereniti. We would not be able to explain why the long-vowel mark disappeared. As far as we can tell, it disappeared for some mysterious, unknown reason.
Did Ms. Takeuchi Actually Write Selenity?
Mr. Iskandar Taib wrote in a Usenet message that Ms. Takeuchi wrote something where she made the queen of the Silver Millennium say something like “I am Selenity. The one who, in times of old, was called ‘Selene’ by Earthmen.” Apparently, the source was supposed to be a sort of a prequel to Sailor Moon about the fall of the Silver Millennium. Unfortunately, Mr. Taib does not mention where Ms. Takeuchi wrote the sentences. We also do not know whether the sentences in question are written in English or the sentences are an English translation of sentences in Japanese. The latter possibility is more likely because all of her principle manga works are mostly in Japanese.
According to that unknown source, the queen that she used to be called “Selene” by Earth people a long time ago. In the anime and manga, the queen simply says that she is an incarnation of the goddess Selene23. She does not specifically identify herself as the goddess and she does not identify herself as a person with the name Selene. (The Panda Corps fansub translation of episode 44 of the anime makes Queen Serenity say that she is the incarnation of the goddess of the moon, Serenity. If we listen carefully to what Queen Serenity says, though, we should hear that she is really saying “Serne,” not “Sereniti.” She pronounces the two names differently.)
If the queen’s sentences are in Japanese, then her name most likely appears as Sereniti and the goddess’ name most likely appears as Serne. In that case, the person who wrote the English translation decided to write “Selenity” instead of “Serenity.” In that case, he or she just as well could have also have written “Serene” instead of “Selene.”
So, did Ms. Takeuchi actually Write Selenity in Roman letters on that unknown source? We would not be able to say truthfully that she did unless we can find the unknown source and examine it.
Selenity on the Japanese Merchandise
This section lists the different pieces of merchandise that show Selenity in Roman letters.
One of the sources is a card that shows “Qeenselenity.” The card exhibits some unusual features that hurt its credibility. There are awkward English sentences (often referred to as “Engrish”) that appear on the card: “She is future USAGI married MAMORU successfully. There is something noble about her, isn’t there?” We can feel confident in concluding that the “Qeen” should be “Queen.” The misidentification of the person on the card only exacerbates the problems. That person is Usagi as the princess, not the queen. Furthermore, it is not known who printed the card. It is likely that the card was released by Bandai, but the card itself does not confirm that.
I managed to find an image that shows “NEO-QUEEN SELENITY.” Unfortunately, I do not know origin of the image. Perhaps the image is of a card that was printed in Japan. This image also shows the sentence “While sheathing her nobleness and beauty with a pure-white dress.Â·Â·Â·” It seems that the person who composed the sentence did not wish to complete it. In English, sheathing (verb) means encasing or covering with or as if with a sheath. The sentence on the images is saying that the queen is encasing or covering her nobleness and beauty with her dress. Does that mean that the composer of the sentence wished to say that we cannot detect the queen’s nobleness and beauty unless she exposes herself by removing the dress?
Serenity on the Japanese Merchandise
This section lists the different pieces of merchandise that show Serenity in Roman letters.
Several years ago, Bandai released a line of merchandise with the name Sailormoon World. The company released dolls, cards, and other sorts of items. One of the cards shows “Princess Serenity.” The “P” in “Princess” looks rather like an “R,” but it seems to be a stylistic feature of the font that is used. (The same letter is seen in the “P” in “Prince Endymion.”)
The Sailormoon World line of merchandise also included small character figurines that the Japanese refer to as GashaPon (). Those figurines came in groups. Each group came with slip of paper that showed the different figurines that were included in that group. Several of the slips of paper show “Princess Serenity.” Notice that the names of the other characters are spelled correctly in Roman letters and in the Japanese script.
Toei released the anime episodes on video and DVD. One of the video covers shows “Serenity” and “Endymion” and the two characters. This source is the most trustworthy source that shows either Serenity of Selenity because it came from Toei, which is one of the copyright holders of the Bishjo Senshi Sr Mn franchise. Moreover, the official Japanese Bishjo Senshi Sr Mn Web site promotes that particular cover in its Video section.
Ms. Takeuchi Most Likely Meant Serenity
We have seen that Serenity is more parsimionous than Selenity because it does not require us to change letters to create a word that is not widely-recognized. We cannot show that Sereniti belongs to a naming scheme that would justify the change in letters. Furthermore, a trustworthy source shows “Serenity.” Ms. Takeuchi probably found it amusing that Sereniti and Serne are similar. According to the information that we can examine, we can say that Ms. Takeuchi most likely meant Serenity.