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My textbook set a test question:

Check the usage of the word "insert" in the following sentences:

  1. It is his habit to insert new topics in the discussion.
  2. The country is planning to insert a new satellite into the orbit.

According to the book, the answer is to use "introduce" instead of "insert" in the first sentence as it is more apt.

For me using "launch" instead of "insert" in the second sentence should be correct, as it is most often used in this way.

Am I wrong in assuming this? And is the book correct? What is more apt ?

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"Into the orbit" is not particularly idiomatic (see my answer). Given that and the amount of discussion which has ensued on your previous question I'm beginning to wonder about the quality of the tuition materials you're having to deal with. –  Andrew Leach Jun 28 '12 at 18:37
    
@AndrewLeach You don't know how many books like this one I've teared down the one from which I am asking questions, sometimes I get headaches looking at such terrible material where the reasons given for answers are not at all in line with the question or the context(mostly with reading comprehensions) :) –  Kartik Anand Jun 28 '12 at 18:53
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Note that "orbital insertion" is a well-worn technical term. It does not need to be associated with a launch (one can launch a spacecraft and then later maneuver it into a stable orbit). In addition, there are several (if not many) types of orbits, so "the orbit" may be perfectly correct in context. –  horatio Jun 28 '12 at 20:44
    
@horatio Yes, "the orbit" might be clumsy wording, or it might be completely correct depending on context. If the context described a particular altitude and angle describing a specific orbit, following this by referring to "the orbit" would be perfectly sensible. –  Jay Jun 28 '12 at 20:51
    
I'd contrast "insert" and "introduce" this way: One inserts an electrical plug into the wall. It implies a bit of force. "Introduce" is softer. –  TecBrat Jun 29 '12 at 16:52

6 Answers 6

Insert can work in the second example. One meaning of insert is to place (satellite or spacecraft) into an orbit or trajectory.

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I think there is a catch in the second sentence as quoted, which is saying into the orbit and not just into orbit.

It's definitely correct to launch a satellite into orbit.

However, when you already have a pre-defined orbit — say a series of geostationary satellites which have to be in a particular orbit — then you could launch another satellite and insert it into that sequence. This is what using "the orbit" implies — it implies that the particular orbit is already known.

In fact you could even use introduce in that sentence, in much the same way as the book suggests introducing a new subject into an ongoing conversation.

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I'd quibble with that textbook. It's not wrong to say that someone "inserted a comment" into a conversation. Yes, "introduce" is also a perfectly good word.

They might have slightly different connotations. If a group of people were having a conversation and you say, "Bob introduced a new subject", I would take that to mean that he steered the conversation in that direction, or that the previous topic was petering out so he brought up a new one. But if you say, "Bob inserted a new subject", that implies to me that he interrupted others.

Horatio has noted that "insert into orbit" is a technical term in the aerospace industry and noted the differences in meaning. So again, either word is grammatically correct. One or the other might not accurately describe what happened in context.

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+1 Agreed. Maybe not an interruption, but definitely an "inserted" topic would be a non sequitur. –  Peter Shor Jun 29 '12 at 1:08

"Insert into orbit" is indeed absolutely correct, as can be seen from these search results.

However, the word insert is being used there in a rather technical context. Unless someone is already familiar with the jargon of spaceflight or orbital mechanics, the word insert might sound a little awkward at first exposure.

Many words are like this: they have secondary or idiomatic meanings that may sound awkward or maybe even incorrect – at least until you've heard it used in that particular context a few times. Besides inserting a satellite into orbit, other examples might include:

  • a large aircraft that taxis to the runway
  • a politician who dances around a question
  • a cold wind that bites into your skin
  • when you bump into your friend at the grocery store
  • deciding to eat chicken vice fish
  • the rake who disrupts the formal dinner party
  • an algorithm designed to keep data coherent

I would guess that the textbook where the O.P. found this question is rather advanced, and deliberately uses words in a scientific, technical, or otherwise specialized context, so as to expose the reader to the broader uses of some words.

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Personally, I would never say someone "inserted" something into space, although I suppose it is technically correct (or at least not patently incorrect). Launch definitely fits more naturally, and is what I would generally expect someone to use in the example sentence.

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You don't insert something into space; you launch something into space. You insert something into a specific orbit around the planet (which likely already has satellites in it). –  Peter Shor Jun 29 '12 at 1:10

Definition of Insert States that to "insert" is to:

to put or place in: to insert a key in a lock.

So while "inserting" a satellite into the orbit is "correct" when examining the definition, it sounds awkward when used in everyday language. The word "insert" (even by looking at the example at the end of the definition) seems to imply that you are putting or placing the object in-between other things. In the sentence proposed by your textbook, this is certainly not the case.

May be better used if put in extra context was added. i.e "The country is planning to insert a new satellite between satellite x and satellite y."

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