[Taxacom] ICZN - gender of genus-group name ending in -oops

Scott Thomson scott.thomson321 at gmail.com
Fri May 20 14:21:07 CDT 2016

I do not personally have an objection to gender agreement, and I am a
native English speaker whose language did away with gender centuries ago,
yes it did have it once. However, there are some arguments for removing it
that are more difficult to dispute. One of these is that something we
taxonomists have to realise and accept is that we are not the only users of
this nomenclature system. We may like to feel we are the ones that set it,
but there are many end users. One group of these end users are legislators
and conservation biologists. Changing names even the spelling has legal
ramifications for some species under the Governments of some countries. It
depends on how they do their endangered species legislation. Changing the
name of a species that is scheduled on an endangered species Act in some
countries requires an Act of Parliament for it to continue being afforded
full legal protection. If this happens because of some new taxonomic
hypothesis then everyone gets that and are fine with it, but if its
happening because someone wants to correct the spelling of a name to meet
something like gender agreement, and worse there are competing ideas on it
and the name goes back and forth for a while well that just looks petty. So
in the interests of meeting all users at least part way, I think changing
spelling of names should only be possible when there is a new taxonomic
hypothesis, eg the species has moved to a new genus. If it is just wrong
because no one checked or new understanding of the etymology of a genus
name means its gender is different then leave it all be, we should be able
to follow prevailing usage.

@David, shortcrowna  8-0 just wow.....

Cheers, Scott

On Fri, May 20, 2016 at 3:05 PM, David Redei <david.redei at gmail.com> wrote:

> The idea of dropping gender agreement turns up time to time, and usually
> arguments like "*poor Asians (particularly Chinese), their language does
> not have genders, it is so difficult for them to deal with the Greek-Latin
> taxon names*" are mentioned as well. Interestingly, I have never heard any
> Chinese colleague to complain against and call for dropping gender
> agreement. Further, as far as I am aware, English nouns do not have gender
> either, still I have never heard anybody to claim that gender agreement
> should be dropped because it is too confusing for British, American,
> Canadian or Australian zoologists. The major issue is not the mother tongue
> of the authors but rather their awareness or ignorance. They are careful
> and ignorant zoologists among Asians, Europeans and Americans too, the
> careful ones will look after or ask help if they are unsure, the ignorant
> ones will not care anyway. Modifying the system because there are ignorant
> authors seems a bit weird to me.
> The best would be if at least editors of journals would be familiar with
> the basic rules, call the author's attention and request corrections of bad
> names in the manuscript phase. Apparently it does not happen, I can see
> dozens of very badly created Greek-Latin names published in several
> journals, many in Zootaxa. One of the most bizarre monstrosity I have seen
> recently is the genus *Shortcrowna* Li & Li, 2014 (Hemiptera), with
> etymology as follows: "The name of the new genus is derived from the Latin
> words short (short) and crown (crown), indicating the shape of its crown"
> (Zootaxa 3764: 468). It is difficult to believe that it could pass review
> and editing. The problem here certainly was not that the authors' native
> language does not have genders, the problem was that the authors did not
> even have a glimpse of the basic rules of forming names.
> David Redei
> On 21 May 2016 at 01:07, Adam Cotton <adamcot at cscoms.com> wrote:
> > Checking original descriptions certainly isn't a waste of time, I
> actually
> > do it a lot in my research. However, checking very carefully to see
> whether
> > there is a disclaimer on the apparent adjectival epithet included
> somewhere
> > in the description does add to the time spent, and more importantly it is
> > rather difficult for a computer to perform this task.
> >
> > In fact, even very old names need checking. The example I mentioned
> > yesterday that the Chinese had garbled was described in 1852 as a
> > replacement name for a junior homonym, and the original description makes
> > it clear that the name is not an adjective even though it ends in -a.
> > Without gender agreement scientists don't need to worry about such
> > semantics and can spend their time on productive research.
> >
> > Living in Thailand for as long as I have (since 1981) I can actually
> > understand how confusing gender agreement must be for Asians. In the Thai
> > language not only is there no gender agreement, words don't even have
> > endings to indicate plurals, a word is a word whether it be a noun,
> > adjective or verb, and the expression of meaning is present in the
> > arrangement of the words to form a context. In fact the same words may
> > sometimes be used as verbs, nouns and adjectives.
> >
> > The major problems with incorrect gender agreement by the Chinese is
> > because the epithets that were changed are actually not adjectives; but
> > because they end with an -us or an -a they look as though they are to a
> > taxonomist who is taught that words with these endings need to agree with
> > the genus name, without really understanding when/why these rules do and
> do
> > not apply.
> >
> > Adam.
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> >
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Scott Thomson
Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo
Divisão de Vertebrados (Herpetologia)
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