Aff - able?

John Grimshaw
Tue, 18 Mar 2008 15:21:54 PDT
I am surprised at the usually so-precise Jim McKenney's outburst against the 
invaluable word affinis, abbreviated to aff.

> Paul mentioned the despicable practice (no bad reflection meant on you,
Paul) of using the abbreviation aff. in naming plants. Aff. is neo-Latin for
"beats me, I guess it's [fill in the blank]" Since all living things are
presumably related at one level or another, every living thing is "aff"
every other living thing to some degree. And so this aff. business doesn't
tell us much.

Aff. means quite clearly and simply, 'akin to, bordering' (see Stearn's 
'Botanical Latin'), and this is the sense in which it is used by every 
competent botanist. Those of us who attempt to identify wild (or even 
garden) plants will inevitably come across specimens that do not quite seem 
to match a description, or a comparative specimen, but seem to be akin to, 
or bordering on it; these will rightly and properly be annotated as aff. 
species X. It indicates that further study is required, perhaps to reveal a 
wider variation than previously recorded in a species' morphology, or 
perhaps indeed suggesting that it is a hitherto undescribed taxon - that's 
when aff. becomes fun.

John Grimshaw

Dr John M. Grimshaw
Sycamore Cottage
Nr Cheltenham
Gloucestershire GL53 9NP

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