Dialogue about the catalog

Freek Vrugtman vrugtman at INTERLYNX.NET
Fri Jun 21 10:07:32 CDT 2002

Dear TAKSAKOMmers,

We were taught to be flexible and to adapt ourselves.

At an early age I discovered that there was a difference between "my" Dutch and that of our Flemish neighbours, and that Afrikaans was a "funny" kind of Dutch I could understand.

The first German I picked up turned out to be a dialect; my current WordPerfect Language Module can correct me in "Hochdeutsch" and in Swiss German.

English happens to be my third language. First-year university English gave me a hard time. With exam-essays lurking on the horizon my professor suggested: "If in doubt about the spelling of a word choose the first spelling that comes to mind, and stick to it; be consistent."

Languages, written and spoken, evolve; people can be proud of their language and may want to preserve it; I'm sure many of us have admired good speakers and good writers, and cringed at bad ones.

Our plant taxonomy professor had the class take a vote at the beginning of the semester on whether to adopt the Anglo-Saxon pronunciation of botanical Latin, or the "classical" one. We voted for Anglo-Saxon. After x-mas exam the whole class had to switch to "classical", making sure we could communicate with the rest of the world. Around that time Philip Muntz of Flora of California fame visited the herbarium; over coffee I asked him how he pronounced botanical names; his reply: "It all depends where I am."

The work of editors often reveals their sensitivity (or insensitivity) to foreign languages and foreign custom. Even with seemingly identical names a Dutch, a Belgian, and a US-American author may have different preferences in having their names appear in bibliographies; they could appear as:

Donker, J. J. van den / den Donker, J. J. van / Vandendonker, J. J. / respectively. Chinese names can be confusing too, but don't need to be. Dan H. Nicolson and co-author made some clear recommendations in TAXON years ago; few editors follow them, because they don't realize that the number of family names are few, whereas the number of given names in Chinese are endless.

I'm just wondering what the foreign language requirements are today for graduate students in taxonomy; and no more Latin, I presume.

Our thanks to TAXACOM for providing this platform for expressing opinions!

vrugtman at interlynx.net

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