language of description

Nancy Hensold hensold at ABIS.FMNH.ORG
Wed Oct 25 12:13:50 CDT 1995

On language of description -- I would be surprised if someone hadn't already
thought of this, but why be so tied to language for conveying
characteristics? An illustration is a non-linguistic way of representing the
same information. And the ways in which an illustration can be flawed all
have analogues in bad descriptions. Does it have something to do with a
deepseated fear taxonomists have of being told that what they do isn't
science but "merely" art? However, we all agree on the validity of type
specimens, which as the dead husks of organisms can be analogized with
holographic illustrations.
I do want to know which characteristics the author of a taxon considers
important and noteworthy, but in reality I find myself giving very little
credence to original descriptions as a way of finding out something about
the taxon - descriptions are so variable in quality and comprehensibility
it's not really worth the time to mess with them. I spend more time tearing
my hair trying to figure out how to get the money to go to Europe to see
Nancy Hensold
Department of Botany
Field Museum
Chicago, IL 60605
hensold at

More information about the Taxacom mailing list