Catalog / protolog versus Catalogue / protologue

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Fri Jun 21 14:04:29 CDT 2002

Well!  This thread certainly took a turn that I had not anticipated!  I
debated whether to respond at all, but since I am largely responsible for
sparking this diversion from Taxonomy, I felt a need to try to bring it back
into taxonomy.

First, I am of the mind that communication is the "ends", whereas language
is a "means" (as opposed to the reverse). What's important is the accurate
and efficient conveyance of information and ideas from one person to
another, irregardless of the "rules" of the chosen language. For example,
despite the fact that the word "irregardless" does not exist in any language
(that I am aware of), I have little doubt that readers understood the point
of my previous sentence every bit as much as they would have had I used a
more appropriate (real) word.

Nevertheless, I am also of the mind that the effectiveness of database
systems are enhanced by adopting internationally palatable standards and
conventions -- especially when such database systems relate to taxonomic
nomenclature (a rare example of near-universal international cooperation).
Given that the original question that started this thread was about the use
of the word "Protolog[ue]" in the context of my taxonomic database system,
and further given that among the many responses I received (both on- and
off-list) from countries all over the planet (not just France), only one
advocated dropping the "ue" from this word (one other confessed to dropping
it only in the context of the DOS 8-character limit to file names, but
otherwise preferred to include it) -- I feel justified in maintaining the
full-length spelling in my application.

> So, why hold onto a thousand year old vestigial appendix? drop
> the terminal "ue" It is a matter of evolution and progress, not
> simply wanting to be different.

The last bit may well be true, and perhaps I shouldn't have compared the
demonstrated tendency of 'mericans (the term I use to distinguish residents
of the U.S. from other residents of the American continents) to go out of
their way to distinguish themselves from other nations, to this particular
instance of a proposed contraction of spelling.  However, as for the whole
notion of langauge evolution, I suggest that it ususally (and probably most
effectively) happens via "natural selection" (the passive survival or
non-survival of spelling conventions), rather than "artificial selection"
(the proactive manipulations of spellings in a deliberate attempt to somehow
streamline the written langauge).  The latter, taken to the extreme, is the
foundation of a classic email joke that makes its rounds every year or two
(the punch-line of which reads: "VE VIL AL SPIK LIK CHERMANS").

> PS    Well !!!   This is interesting.  In spell checking this post to make
> sure I had the words misspelled as intended, when it came to the word
> catalogged the spell checker popped up with  * cataloged *.
> This prompted
> me to go back and spell check Doug's * catalogued * .    The
> result is that
> _both_ words (spellings) come as is in my Microsoft spell checker.

You think that's bad? My Microsoft spell checker had no problem with the
word "irregardless"!


Richard L. Pyle
Ichthyology, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at
"The opinions expressed are those of the sender, and not necessarily those
of Bishop Museum."

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