[Taxacom] Family names, usage.
Michael A. Ivie
mivie at montana.edu
Wed Feb 20 13:35:33 CST 2008
I really do have important things to do, as no doubt does Martin, but
this is such a good way to avoid them....
Spies, Martin wrote:
>Michael A. Ivie wrote:
>>I would like to point out that I myself am guilty of being "wrong" in
>>this usage of family-group names as plural. I have actually caught
>>myself publishing this form, and in speech, which is sloppy in
>>America, I do it all the time. This is not my point, I am simply
>>arguing what is grammatically correct is very clear
>OK, but then what was yesterday's bit about, that this ">dumbing down<
>... should be fought at every level in the sciences"?
Incorrect usage is not something to be simply accepted because people do
it. I am very serious that just because I do it, does not make it
correct. Like adultery, knowing something is wrong when you do it is an
important part of understanding what you are doing. I am not going to
put someone in jail for it, but I insist that it be understood that it
is not a good example. I now hear full professors use data as a
singular in seminars. Using data as singular allows students to
misunderstand just what data are. Once they think it is a thing, not a
collection of things, it becomes a very different concept. The same
with family-group names. Usage as a singular allows people to get it in
their head that a family is a single thing, not an assemblage of
things. Even if (as is unusual in current classificatons) the family is
totally monophyletic in every sense, it is still an assemblage of
things, not a "thing." Words are powerful in how we take them into our
subconcious assumptions about what they represent. If we are going to
violate the rules, we should both know and admit that what we are doing
is incorrect. Like adultery, we may do it anyway because we prefer to,
but deep down it is important to know its implications. Most
importantly to the dumbing down argument, we should never defend
ourselves by claiming it is correct, and instead be clear that we just
like it, and that idiomatically, it is understood, even though incorrect.
This is what distinguishes us from George Bush, because he does not know
it is incorrect.
>>When an editor or reviewer points out an error of any sort, they are
>>doing us a favor, not oppressing us, and should be thanked for their
>>efforts, even if we do not follow their advice.
>Unfortunately, that's not true in all cases. Experience (in my case as
>an author, reviewer and editor of mostly English-language scientific and
>technical publications) shows that not all of what's being done works to
>any favor of the respective recipient, and some of it is needlessly
But, they cared enough to respond, and in the specific case of
correcting something that is even technically wrong, it is done in good
faith (I am not refering to the reviewer comments that are vindictive,
erroneous or otherwise not fitting the above situation). As such, if
you choose not to follow them, and successfully argue to the editor to
use technically incorrect usage, you are still in their debt because
they took the time to do their best to actually improve the paper. It
is up to the editor to decide the validity of the argument, the reviewer
who raises a valid point is to be thanked either way.
NOTE NEW ADDRESS (As of 01/01/2007 DO NOT USE OLD P.O. BOX ADDRESS):
Michael A. Ivie, Ph.D., F.R.E.S.
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