Pronunciation of botanical names

Mark Wilcox
Sun, 08 Dec 2002 15:47:02 PST
Dear all,

This discussion is very interesting to me!  I suspect it is to a multitude of
other lurkers as well.

First of all, I'd like to thank Mary Wise for having brought it up.  It's one
of those subjects I often wonder about, but never seem to get around to asking
a question in regard to.

On Sun, 08 Dec 2002 11:56:30 -0800, Jane McGary wrote:

>To take the example Mary mentioned, "leucocoryne," the syllables are
>leu-co-co-ry-ne. In American pronunciation, the "eu" sounds like the vowel

At last!  This paragraph verifies that I correctly reasoned out how to say at
least one latin name on my own!  For me, that's a major accomplishment.

I was quite surprised to hear how others pronounced latin names at the IBS
Symposium in Chicago in 2001 like Nerine, Hippeastrum, Cyclamen, and others
considered common - due to the fact that it was the first time I'd been in a
"geophyte social situation" where the latin names were bandied about verbally.

Other names such as Galanthus, Lycoris, Muscari, and Tulipa seem to follow
rules of pronunciation that are more logical or intuitive without an extensive knowledge of how we'd say them as if they came "from Latin and Greek," as Jane wrote.  The trick to correctly pronouncing these names seems lie in the ability to recognize which rules of pronunciation a particular latin term is going to follow - or is it rather that our rules coincide with the Latin/Greek borrowed word rules in these specific cases?

Although I didn't consciously realize it, Jane is completely correct about
CLEMatis vs. CleMATis.  Either pronunciation sounds correct to me after so much exposure to the Queen's English, just as we might expect to hear "tomato" pronounced differently according to the origin of the speaker.

Jane, many thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!

Mark Wilcox
Washington, DC

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