[Taxacom] Family names are plural. Period

Spies, Martin spies at zi.biologie.uni-muenchen.de
Thu Feb 21 04:59:42 CST 2008

The funny cartoon Jim Croft referred to could have made a nice 
conclusion if what it makes fun of were the main subject or problem in 
this/these thread/s. In my view, however, that is not the case (nor is 
it with Karl Magnacca's 'Pedantidae' quip). Neither have I read any of 
the contributions as trying to be right at all cost, nor has there been 
a lack of larger, deeper issues beyond myopic over-attention to 
meaningless details. (Not that the latter doesn't occur, or isn't even 
to be expected in a community of taxonomists. ;-) )

It is somewhat disappointing, though, that greater than 95 % of the 
plural/singular discussion has favored formalities over content. All the 
various explanatory texts quoted yesterday about 'data is/data are', for 
example, expand upon who uses which how frequently. Nothing about the 
chances diversity in formal expression offers to conveying (nuances of) 

How easy things could be if we could simply read authors' phrases such 
as 'Tenebrionidae are' or 'data is' as reflecting precisely which of the 
various specific aspects of the item so named the author focused on in 
the respective sentence, rather than having to reckon with the 
considerable likelihood that such wording doesn't reflect any particular 
thought detail, but instead the formalism 'school' the author follows or 
the formalistic restrictions an editor may have imposed.

We look at details of bodily shapes or genetic structure in hopes of 
those 'formalities' telling us something about biological meaning. Why 
not practise the same in language, both as responsible authors and 
conscious readers?

A dream world? Pedantry? If so, I'd quite proudly wear a label of 
'pedantic dreamer'.


Martin Spies
c/o Zoologische Staatssammlung Muenchen

More information about the Taxacom mailing list