TAXACOM Digest - 25 Feb 1999 to 26 Feb 1999

Scott Ranger ranger at AMERICA.NET
Sat Feb 27 09:11:43 CST 1999

As editor for "BotSoc News," the newsletter of the Georgia Botanical
Society (USA), I wrote a brief article in 1996 titled "Just how do you
pronounce Ceratiola? A primer on botanical Latin." I used the standard
botanical sources already mentioned in this thread, and consulted some
"experts" in Latin from church and school. It was illuminating. I
learned my taxonomic pronunciations in California and Oregon in college,
but have been living in the eastern US for nearly 3 decades with regular
travels back to the west. There are significant regional differences in
botanical Latin between the two, and if that, I can just imagine the
international implications!

I found several facts:

1. there is no absolute authority on how to prance botanical Latin
2. there are several schools of Latin pronunciation, all claiming
legitimacy, and they do not agree with one another
3. reference books are not consistent in their recommendations
4. botanical Latin draws hard on Greek, English and other languages
where there are no Latin equivalent pronunciations (so much for the rule
to treat all derived words as "Latin")

"So what are we faced with, chaos? It might indeed seem that way, but
there is one underused human quality that cuts through chaos and would
be my recommended RULE #1:  BE POLITE. If one hears a pronunciation one
does not recognize, the polite person would simply ask if there might be
other pronunciations that would sound more familiar. The boor would
insult with his air of superiority. Politeness clearly wins. This helps
for the person quite familiar with Latin as well as Latinophobes. Be
gracious and don't worry about it!"

I'll never forget an oral report I made in high school on the ponderosa
pine (Pinus ponderosa). I was showing off my proper Latin. If you say
this to yourself, you'll discover as my class it's X-rating and erupt in
a mammoth laugh. I was mortified. I haven't pronounced that name
properly since!

Scott Ranger

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