[Taxacom] Family names are plural. Period.

Edwards, G.B. edwardg at doacs.state.fl.us
Thu Feb 21 08:24:08 CST 2008

Martin, we all know that it is human nature to resist change.  But
having said that, I agree with Rich, Dick, and, in particular, Neal's
last post.  It is context (collective vs individual) that now determines
the verb form, whether it be a family name or data, not the strict form
of the noun.  That seems like progress to me.  So, despite and with all
respect to Laurent's just posted message, I think there are instances
where a singular verb with a plural noun can be justified, e.g., see
Rich's examples.
G. B. Edwards
Florida State Collection of Arthropods 

-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Spies, Martin
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2008 6:00 AM
Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Family names are plural. Period

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

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