Aff - able?

Jim McKenney
Tue, 18 Mar 2008 17:23:54 PDT
John Grimshaw wrote: "I am surprised at the usually so-precise Jim
McKenney's outburst against the invaluable word affinis, abbreviated to
aff...Aff. means quite clearly and simply, 'akin to...’"

John, let me see if I can persuade you that I am trying to be as precise as
I usually try to be.

Because there appears to be a compliment of sorts to me in the quote above,
I will attempt in my response to be affable and to avoid outbursts. 

I object to the use of this term affinis in the way being discussed because
it is illogical: it does not deliver what it promises. It purports to state
the very things which are in fact unknown: relationship and identity. 

The word akin expresses natural relationship, not mere similarity. What
sense does it make to use the word akin before such natural relationship is

This distinction between natural relationship and mere similarity is the
salient difference between modern taxonomy and taxonomy as practiced up
until the beginning of the twentieth century. 

Isn't this usage of affinis a vestige of nineteenth century taxonomic
practice and thought, a vestige of the times when taxonomists believed that
if things looked alike, they must be related?   

You know as well as I do that similar appearance does not necessarily
indicate natural relationship. 

A better term would be simulans, in the sense of resembling. That word
avoids any implication of necessary biological relationship. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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