Thu Aug 15 19:14:39 CDT 2002

Gregory Zolnerowich wrote:

> Bill Shear mentions ways around the arcane rules by using nouns in
> apposition or designating each name as an arbitrary combination or
> letters. Martin Spies takes me to task in the belief that dropping
> the language rules would weaken the science of systematics.
> Like the language rules, hand-cranked telephones were interesting and
> have an air of comfort and  nostalgia, but there are better and more
> important things now.

apposition / designating / arbitrary / combination / science /
systematics / telephones / interesting / nostalgia / important

B. glacialis
B. mdfrc

The top list contains selected words from Greg's second mail,
the bottom a pair of scientific species epithets from a genus
of  chironomid Diptera ('legally' formed and in the books
like that).

Which way do you think is easier for a child, a foreigner or
a beginning taxonomist to learn these words and keep them
in long-term memory, in a way that enables the person to
keep applying and spelling them correctly:

A) By heart, that is without any background or association
as to their derivation,
B) By way of their etymology (in the botanical literature
still called derivatio nominis)?

How do people learn such items if there is no ready
association of meaning available to help them learn?
They help themselves with what we call a 'donkey's bridge'
in German: an easily remembered term that's highly
similar (remember the 'sounds like' category in the
game of Charades?).

Why do the Codes recommend to taxonomic authors
to supply a note on the etymology of their new scientific

Which of the two species names - B. glacialis and B. mdfrc -
do you think will be misspelled more often in the future,
and why do you think that'll be?

So, isn't there a very practical reason for using words
whose meaning you know and with whom your brain
combines a bunch of associations besides the mere sequence
of letters, and for knowing what you're talking about?


Martin Spies
Schraemelstr. 151
D-81247 Muenchen

Email: spies at zi.biologie.uni-muenchen.de

Tel. (ZSM) +49 89 8107 153
Fax (ZSM) +49 89 8107 300

More information about the Taxacom mailing list