Aff - able?

John Grimshaw
Wed, 19 Mar 2008 02:51:50 PDT
I'm sorry that I have to continue this pointless discussion, as I have far 
better things to do, but I have been challenged to respond and therefore 
must do so.

I can only reiterate that the whole point of the use of aff. or cf. (etc) 
is, as also patiently explained by Dylan Hannon, to indicate a perceived 
relationship or similarity between specimens under consideration. Whether 
this is a real kinship or not is totally immaterial; that is what the 
further study indicated by the use of such a cipher will determine. If this 
term is as inaccurate as Jim McKenney seems to think,  it is very curious 
that the world's botanists are perfectly happy to use it in their day to day 
work (without requiring any form of definition or rules for usage).

John Grimshaw

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

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jim McKenney" <>
To: "'Pacific Bulb Society'" <>
Sent: Wednesday, March 19, 2008 12:23 AM
Subject: Re: [pbs] Aff - able?

John Grimshaw wrote: "I am surprised at the usually so-precise Jim
McKenney's outburst against the invaluable word affinis, abbreviated to
aff...Aff. means quite clearly and simply, 'akin to...'"

John, let me see if I can persuade you that I am trying to be as precise as
I usually try to be.

Because there appears to be a compliment of sorts to me in the quote above,
I will attempt in my response to be affable and to avoid outbursts.

I object to the use of this term affinis in the way being discussed because
it is illogical: it does not deliver what it promises. It purports to state
the very things which are in fact unknown: relationship and identity.

The word akin expresses natural relationship, not mere similarity. What
sense does it make to use the word akin before such natural relationship is

This distinction between natural relationship and mere similarity is the
salient difference between modern taxonomy and taxonomy as practiced up
until the beginning of the twentieth century.

Isn't this usage of affinis a vestige of nineteenth century taxonomic
practice and thought, a vestige of the times when taxonomists believed that
if things looked alike, they must be related?

You know as well as I do that similar appearance does not necessarily
indicate natural relationship.

A better term would be simulans, in the sense of resembling. That word
avoids any implication of necessary biological relationship.

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