personal nomenclature matter pbs vol 89 issue 40

Jane McGary
Tue, 29 Jun 2010 09:57:47 PDT
Jim SHields wrote
>My favorite nomenclatural conundrums involve botanists with Russian 
>or other names transliterated from the Cyrillic alphabet by German 
>botanists.  Fortunately, I cannot think of any concrete examples at the moment.

They're the ones where the single Cyrillic character rendered "shch" 
in English transliteration comes out "schtsch" in German 
transliteration. The usual suggestion in pronouncing them is just to 
sneeze quickly.

Another complication is that some species epithets are nouns, not 
adjectives, and therefore they don't agree grammatically with the 
genus name; and some are in fact the names of the plants in an 
indigenous language -- a trend that supporters of the Fund for 
Endangered Languages can only applaud.

Calling taxonomic names "Latin names" leads many people into 
confusion, because they ignore the fact that many genus names are 
Greek, and some elements of species epithets are Greek in origin, 
either modified with Latin endings or not (phyllus vs. phyllos). If 
you have forgotten your Latin, which is no shame, just ask; I have 
not forgotten mine, nor my Greek -- and thanks to a current editorial 
project, I still have the big classical dictionaries (and most of the 
modern language ones) out on the shelf instead of packed in moving boxes.

Delighted to know that some people still care about these things, 
even though my teenage goal of becoming a Latin teacher got 
redirected into comparative lit. and linguistics!

Jane McGary
B.A., Classics

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