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

David Redei david.redei at gmail.com
Sat May 21 10:03:44 CDT 2016

> 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.

Sorry, I cannot follow this. Let's suppose there is A-us b-us, a protected
species. You say that changing this name is undesirable because some
national laws might needed to be changed. But there is no chance for *A-us*
[masc.] *b-us* to change ONLY because of gender agreement (e.g. to *A-us
b-a*)! It simply cannot happen (or it only can happen only in a negligibly
small number of very special cases, when the gender of *A-us* was
recognized wrongly by the whole community until now). The only case where
gender agreement can cause change in the ending of the epithet is when the
species is transferred to another genus, and the combination *C-a* [fem.]
*b-a* will be the valid name; but in these cases the binomen changes
anyway, so laws must be changed with or without gender agreement as well.
Summing up, name changes are indeed undesirable, but names can change
because of millions of reasons, eliminating gender agreement because it is
one of the millions of reasons is nonsense.

Scientific names are NAMES (and not "tags" or "identifiers"), therefore
they are subjects of linguistics. One can like it or not, but the vast
majority of names in zoology are Greek-Latin, and this is a fact which is
impossible to be ignored. Moreover it gives a very bad message: there is no
need to learn how to do things properly, it is enough if you can persuade
more people to be ignorant, then ignorance will become the standard.
Claiming to ignore linguistics because there are "linguistically challenged
fellow zoologists" is mindless. If one wants to do maths, physics or
chemistry, he needs to learn not only the scientific background but also
the complex formalism of these fields to be able to communicate his ideas
in a way which is accepted by the community. Elementary Greek-Latin grammar
is part of our science, a zoologist must learn it to some (basic!) extent.
If we eliminate it, as a next step we can eliminate all taxon descriptions
written in Latin (nowadays few people can read Latin, why forcing the
people to decipher these ancient documents!); then eliminate proper type
designations (beware, the movement already started!); and so on. I do not
think we should make compromises on quality.

Some people claim that dealing with gender agreement takes too much time,
and one should rather allocate his energy on high quality taxonomy rather
than such marginal issues. This sounds great, still, I have never seen any
publication which had absolutely superb taxonomy, but terrible gender
agreement and formation of many handicapped new names (like the "Latin"
Shortcrowna). My impression is that in the real world somehow there are
good authors and bad authors, in papers of good authors the taxonomy and
the nomenclature / linguistics are both good, in papers of bad authors they
are both bad. Therefore I simply cannot understand the big hype and
multiple discussions about the gender agreement issue since years. Gender
agreement is absolutely not as hard as many people claim, there are a few
rules to follow, and now there are great online dictionaries, wiktionary,
and whatnot. In last case one always can ask help from colleagues.

David Redei

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