The gender of the generic name Acis

Jim McKenney
Fri, 18 Feb 2005 14:03:18 PST
At 01:16 PM 2/18/2005 -0800, Rodger Whitlock

>Confusion reigns.

Not really. The suggestions you made were dealt with more or less in last
year's run on this topic.

FYI: I've checked the standard works and Acis of Acis and Galatea is a
masculine word. 

The source of the confusion has nothing to do with the classical languages.
It has to do with Salisbury's intentions. I asked my question hoping that
someone knows something about this which I have not yet uncovered: for
instance, maybe there exists some correspondence from Salisbury in which he
explains what he intended. It's hard for me to believe that in the early
nineteenth century, when the educated included a knowledge of classical
Latin and Greek in their arsenal, that lots of people would not have hit on
the apparent ambiguity posed by the name Acis attached to a feminine
adjective - and asked about it.

In other words, lots of other people must have already asked this question.  

The use of the generic name as a feminine noun dates back well into the
nineteenth century, so perhaps there is a tradition to explain it.

Incidentally, Salisbury was apparently not a professional botanist in the
modern sense. He was (proudly) an amateur, a good example of that
peculiarly British tradition of amateurs the excellence of whose work
merits the consideration of the professional botanists. I think he was a
draftsman by profession.

He seems to have been keenly aware of his status: in the Paradisus
Londinensis,  Salisbury launches a broadside at a professional botanist
with whom he had a disagreement. Salisbury seems to be taking the position
that as an amateur, his motivations are purer than those of the
professional who gets paid; or, as he put it, "for whether he lectures in
print or by word of mouth, it is still for gold...". 

I was skimming quickly when I encountered this passage, and I may have put
the wrong meaning to Salisbury's words; perhaps the professional botanist
accused Salisbury of being mercenary (presumably Salisbury underwrote the
cost of publishing his own works - and therefore had an interest in their
success), and Salisbury felt the need to point out that the botanist was
not working for free. Or maybe there is another explanation. When I get the
chance I'll go back and check the passage again. 

At any rate, let's see what emerges. 

Jim McKenney

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