amino acids

Joe Laferriere josephl at CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU
Thu Dec 14 12:31:39 CST 1995

> And I still remember the first time I heard the British pronunciation
> "a-MINE-oh" for amino acid (most Americans say "a-MEAN-oh").  In terms of
> pronunciation rules, the British pronounce Latin-derived words in English
> better than we do.

Boy, did you ever contradict yourself. English is the only language in
the galaxy in which the letter "I" is pronounced as a diphthong (ah + ee
in one syllable). The standard in Latin as well as every other language
is for it to be as in the English word "machine." Thus, for once, we
americans are right: a-meen-oh. A clock running backwards is right four
times a day.
   Years ago, I heard a Colombian botanist rounding criticizing Americans
for not knowing Latin. He especially criticized the pronounciation. Then,
however, he proceeded to use a hispanicized pronounciation. Thus "Juncus"
became "huncus." Classical Latin, of course, would make it like "yuncus." So
we are both wrong. What I object to more than the pronunciation is
changing the spelling to match the pronunciation. I have seen lots of
Latin American botanists spell "Chenopodium" as "Quenopodium."  No.
   As far as there being multiple correct ways of pronouncing Latin:
there are only two methods with any legiticamy: Classical Latin and
Medieval Latin. Classical Latin would have all "C's" and "G's" hard, and
"J" like a "Y." Thus Acer is "ah-ker" and Geum is "gee-um." Medieval
Latin would soften this rule, but keep the original vowels. Years ago, I
tried pronouncing names using Classical Latin rules to American
botanists, but I got blank stares. I finally gave up when my
pronunciation of Pinus got me a few chuckles. Anglicized or Hispanicized
or Germanicized of any other pronunciation is justifiable only for
practical reasons: i.e., because nobody will understand you if you do it

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