taxons and orthography

Robin Leech robinl at CONNECT.AB.CA
Wed Mar 8 19:40:12 CST 2000

Jeeech.  Sir Lammers, would you say "General Motors was the largest company
in the world", or would you say "General Motors were the largest company in
the world"?
Robin Leech
----- Original Message -----
From: Thomas Lammers <lammers at VAXA.CIS.UWOSH.EDU>
Sent: Wednesday, March 08, 2000 2:47 PM
Subject: Re: taxons and orthography

> 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,
> >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
> 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
> hear -ae as plural, so a singular verb "sounds okay".
> But it ain't!   : - )
> Tom
> 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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