taxons and orthography

John Noyes jsn at NHM.AC.UK
Fri Mar 17 14:28:29 CST 2000

At 03:47 PM 3/8/2000 -0600, you wrote:
>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.

No you are wrong. "The Beatles is a British rock band" is certainly correct
(becaue it refers to the title of the band and not to the members of the
band), although it does sound odd. We are forever arguing one way or the
other. Half my colleagues in this museum would use "the Asteraceae is . . "
and the other half would use "the Asteraceae are . . ". The former would be
strictly the correct usage, but personally I find it difficult to get away
from the latter. It is a little like using "the data are . . ." when you
have been brought up on "the data is . . . ".


John S. Noyes, Entomology Department, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell
Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 5BD, UK

Tel. +44 (0)207-942-5594  Fax: +44 (0)207-942-5229

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