Pacific Bulb Society Digest
Mon, 09 Dec 2002 20:58:57 PST
I used to worry, but that was years ago, and I'm relatively comfortable with plant name pronunciation now.But I do still look for commemorative names and believe it's most reasonable to attempt to replicate the "commemoratee's" name when possible. Most floras are full of such names.

I used to pronounce the species epithet of Penstemon davidsonii as "Dave-id-SOW-nee-eye", which is possibly a little bit silly as the name clearly commemorates someone named Davidson... the syllables are clearly not meaningful botanical latin roots and combinations, so it just makes good sense to say "DAVE-id-son-eye".

But when it comes to clematis, or saxifraga, I'm like a chameleon, using the ToeMAYtoe or ToeMAHtoe pronunciation preferred by the person I'm speaking with.

There's another nuance to this name pronunciation thing, and that is bad or distorted pronunciation.When I lived in the Seattle, Washington area, I frequented the garden of one very enthusiastic rock gardener.She liked Alliums, and knew that I made it my special interest, therefore frequently talked about them.

She'd pronounce the genus without hesitation as "AL - yums", each time sending a small twinge through my sensibilities, but she was so enthusiastic, kind, and sharing, that I never did say anything about her novel pronunciation of the genus. Actually I kind of liked it and will never forget it... the cute name suggesting Alliums that are so pretty and appetizing that they've become AL-yums. 

Mark McDonough

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