Is “Greetings Earthling” an appropriate salutation?

Surprise your co-workers or friends by welcoming them with a “Greetings Earthling!”

Try to guess if they are wondering if you are an alien or human being. If you aren’t sure, the internet’s Triangle of Knowledge waits to help: Yahoo Answers,, and Quora. Great answers came from Quora, including one from an astronaut! Here’s the original question posted:

Does greetings, earthling imply you are an alien or greeting your fellow earthling?

An informative 465-word answer was given by Michael Wilson. He explored terms like: “pragmatics of conversation” and “the Maxim of Quantity.” The answer is so good, that I transformed his answer into a webcomic.

Quora not only dished up that great detailed answer, but former NASA Astronaut Garret Reisman also responded!

Looking at this guy’s profile online, it seems legit. Astronauts are so cool. If a real-life astronaut says this phrase, then it’s immediately in the cool book of salutations to regularly say. resulted in some quicky goofball answers:

used by a terran to address other terran

an alien would call us terrans not earthlings

Humorous that he keeps calling Earthlings as terrans. I had to google terrans to see what in the world they are. (For the unknowing: aliens call humans terrans). Crowtrobot confirms that aliens don’t use the word “earthlings.”

Yahoo Answers also yielded some quick bites. The best response coming from “Mike”:

I never heard an alien say that

Mike gives a very logical answer. However, I never met a logical alien, so I don’t think they are logical.



Please leave a comment below.

↓ Transcript
Suit man: Greetings Earthling!

Narrative bubble: Question: Does that imply I am an alien?
Suit man: Or that I am merely greeting you as a fellow earthling?
Suit man: When greeting others with that phrase, a weird look is often given back to me.

Narrative bubble: Answer
Regular guy: What's going has to do with the pragmatics of conversation.
Regular guy: In particular, you're flouting a conversational rule, called the Maxim of Quantity.
Regular guy: This rule states that what a person contributes to a conversation should be neither more or less than what is required in the context. It may sound a bit abstruse, but you'll notice when people flout this rule.

Ghost person A: How many kids does Hugh have?
Ghost person B: Oh, he's got one son.

Regular guy: B isn't lying: his statement is true, strictly speaking. After all, if it's true you have two songs, it's also true that you have at least one. But B's not playing by the rules of conversation. He's not telling A all the relevant information. Likewise, it sounds weird if he gives too much information.

Ghost person A: Okay, for real this time: how many kids does Hugh have in total?
Ghost person B: He's got two kids and two dogs.

Regular guy: Now B sounds very strange: why is he saying this? What usually happens at this point is that the listener attempts to figure out why A is telling him too much: there's gotta be some reason B is saying this, right? Why does B think A needs to know this? Does Hugh excessively dote on his dogs? Is B trying to be funny?

Regular guy: Heres's where your example comes in: the person you're speaking to assumes that you know they're from Earth. They also know that you're from Earth. The fact that you're both from Earth and so can be called Earthlings is something that goes without saying. You both know this, so it adds no new relevant information to the conversation when you call them an Earthling.

Regular guy: Then they try to figure out why you're adding this information: what's the points of saying this? Well if would make sense if you weren't from Earth and wanted to draw attention to the fact that they are from Earth (or if you were at a Sci-Fi convention and doing it to express group solidarity or something).

Regular guy: So that must be what's going on: you're an alien.

Regular guy: But of course, you aren't: you look pretty much like a person, act and talk like a person, dress like a person. There's no real reason to say it other than for the heck of it.

Regular guy: So they're confused because you're not playing by the rules that govern conversation, and that makes you come off as uh, strange.

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10 years ago

I wouldn’t necessary consider Yahoo Answers,, and Quora to be the Triangle of Knowledge, but rather the Triangle of Opinion. It’s super cool you got an astronaut to respond. This webcomic thing is really neat.

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