Nomenclature: a long quibble

Rodger Whitlock
Tue, 12 Jul 2005 12:04:41 PDT
On 11 Jul 05 at 20:57, Jim McKenney wrote:

> John Bryan said: "The exception being when the name ends in
> 'a' when an e is added, thus balansae from Balansa."
> Actually, what is being added in this instance is not an -e
> but rather the letter combination ae. And it's being added to
> the stem Balans- . The ae is the feminine singular genitive
> form. More about this below; it gets more and more curious. 

> John has quoted the rule as it applies to specific epithets;
> for generic names, one adds -ea to words which end in -a to
> form a generic name. The name John used, balansae, is (or can
> be) a specific epithet, but not properly a generic name. 
> There are two aspects of this rule (actually it is
> Recommendation 60B) which are bizarre in my opinion. 
> Let's get the easier one out of the way first. In the example
> used above, based on the name of the French botanist Benjamin
> (Benedict) Balansa, (do I need to say a male person?) the
> botanical names (both the generic name and the specific name)
> are feminine. In other words, the rules treat names ending in
> -a as feminine words. Never mind that in their language of
> origin there might not be any such gender implications. Since
> the name in question is a French name, and French does make
> such gender distinctions, enough said about this one. 

Not quite so fast there, Mr. McKenney!

This rule treats names ending in -a as being in the first 
declension. Now it's certainly true that the vast majority of 
words in the first declension are feminine, but a few are not. 

[Unless, that is, my memory is even more like swiss cheese than 
I think it is and I'm confusing which declension has which 
aberration. Don't have a Latin grammar at hand to be absolutely 
sure. Must remember to order a copy of Bennett's New Latin 
Grammar via Alibris.]

A pet beef of mine is that the code for horticultural 
nomenclature stipulates that multi-word cultivar names should 
end with a noun. Small problem: in many languages, the 
substantive precedes the adjectival material. In other 
languages, the definition of noun is extremely different from 
the usual Indo-European form that this recommendation becomes 
almost meaningless -- in some cases, I believe it's pretty 
hard to decide if it's a verb or a noun you're looking at 
because the Latin-Greek based nomenclature for parts of speech 
just doesn't fit the paradigms of languages in other families. 

Some PacNW coast aboriginal languages form single words out of 
many chunks with the result that the single word contains a 
great deal more meaning than the narrower form of the 
Indo-European verb.

All this makes hash of the recommendation "noun last".

And it also runs afoul of the English language feature that 
almost any part of speech can be used as a substantive. Does 
that make it a noun in the sense of the recommendation? If I 
name a new crocosmia "Hot Sweaty Run" is the name valid or not?

Rodger Whitlock
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Maritime Zone 8, a cool Mediterranean climate

on beautiful Vancouver Island

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