"arcane" rules/was gender of -opsis

Tue Aug 20 09:35:40 CDT 2002

>>>From: Steve Shattuck [mailto:Steve.Shattuck at CSIRO.AU] No, the basic tool
of the trade is specimens, they are the only things that let us discover
"truth".  <<<

That's like saying the basic tool of a cabinetmaker is wood.  That's the
medium, not the one-and-only basic tool.  The tools he needs to work the
wood into a piece of furniture are hammer and saw.  Similarly, we need the
old publications to work our specimens into "The Truth".

>>>If we focus on systematics - the biological part of what we do - then the
types are all we need and nomenclature is nothing more than a tool.  And if
the nomenclatural tool is found to be wanting then we need to change it.

And if we're having trouble using our tool, maybe it's because we haven't
learned how to use it properly, not because the tool's at fault.  That's how
you become a Master Craftsman, by apprenticeship to learn how to best use
the tools.

>>>Changing the spelling from "humilis" to "humile" adds nothing to our
understanding of that taxon.  And if it adds nothing then why do it?<<<

Because it isn't enough for me know know The Truth.  I have to be able to
communicate it with/to others.  I have to have command of language and to
use words and sentence structure they'll understand.  As we "relax" the
grammar, spelling, and pronunciation of any language, it becomes an
impediment to communication.  Only by having and following rules of grammar,
spelling, and pronunciation (as poor as those rules are for English), are we
able to communicate.

If all of us knew the rules of grammar in The Code, we'd have fewer examples
of improper endings getting into the literature, we'd have more explicit
explanations for why a particular ending was chosen, and we'd have a
relatively simple job of changing endings if/when species are shifted among

Robin K Panza
Section of Birds, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
4400 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh  PA  15213  USA
phone:  412-622-3255
fax:  412-622-8837
panzar at carnegiemuseums.org

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