The politics of language

China is said to be narrowing the list of possibleastronauts for its second manned space flight. Even the Xinhua News Agency refers to the would-be space travelers as astronauts.

However, when it comes to space travelers from Russia an interesting double standard applies. Look at any story about the International Space Station and you'll see neatly deleniated lines. The crew is divided into cosmonauts and astronauts. Wikipedia lists some additional variations for European and Chinese astronauts.

Certainly there are other words where British and American English differ. (i.e. lorry and truck). However, there are few if any other circumstances where the press is compelled to use two different words to express the same thing.