taxons and orthography

Thomas Lammers lammers at VAXA.CIS.UWOSH.EDU
Wed Mar 8 15:47:37 CST 2000

At 04:12 PM 3/8/00 -0500, Dick Jensen  wrote:

>I hate to disagree with my colleague Tom Lammers, but my view is that
>taxonomic names are collective nouns and, when referred to as a single
>entity (e.g., the Asteraceae), take a singular verb:  The Asteraceae is
>circumscribed by...  I know that Asteraceae is a plural form in Latin, but
>we are not using Latin, we are using English.  Therefore, the rules of
>English dictate the proper usage.

Consider this, Dick: Would you say, "The Beatles is a British rock
band?"  I wouldn't.  "The Beatles are a British rock band."  "Beatles" is a
collective noun in your sense, exactly equivalent to "Rosaceae", yet I
don't think it would ever take a singular verb.  Our ear recognizes the -s
as indicative of plural, and inserts a plural verb.  Our ear doesn't always
hear -ae as plural, so a singular verb "sounds okay".

But it ain't!   : - )


Thomas G. Lammers, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor and Curator of the Herbarium (OSH)
Department of Biology and Microbiology
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901-8640 USA

e-mail:                     lammers at
phone (office):         920-424-7085
phone (herbarium):  920-424-1002
fax:                         920-424-1101

Plant systematics; classification, nomenclature, evolution, and
biogeography of the Campanulaceae s. lat.
"Today's mighty oak is yesterday's nut that stood his ground."
                                                 -- Anonymous

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