[Taxacom] Goddess Changes Sex, or the Gender Game: Polistes dominula

Karen Wilson Karen.Wilson at rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au
Mon Oct 22 18:16:51 CDT 2018


Further to this general discussion, for those who have not heard of Brown's 'Composition of Scientific Words', it is available online at https://archive.org/details/compositionofsci00brow/page/n0
The hardcopy book is still available - see the Smithsonian website: https://www.smithsonianbooks.com/store/science-nature/composition-scientific-words/
It is invaluable both for its general discussion of Latin and (ancient) Greek grammar and for its extensive vocabulary with numerous examples of scientific names.

Karen Wilson


________________________________________________________________________________________________
Karen L. Wilson AM
National Herbarium of New South Wales

Adjunct Associate Professor, University of New England, Armidale, NSW  
Secretary, General Committee, International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi & Plants    

Botanic Gardens & Centennial Parklands
T +61 (02) 9231 8137 | E karen.wilson at rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au
Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom <taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> On Behalf Of Sean Edwards
Sent: Tuesday, 23 October 2018 3:08 AM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Goddess Changes Sex, or the Gender Game: Polistes dominula

 From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polistes_dominula

"The European paper wasp was originally described in 1791 by Johann Ludwig Christ <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Ludwig_Christ> as /Vespa dominula/. The specific epithet <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specific_name_(zoology)> //dominula// is a noun meaning "little mistress",^[4] <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polistes_dominula#cite_note-4> and following the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Code_of_Zoological_Nomenclature>,
species epithets which are nouns do not change when a species is placed in a different genus. Authors who were unaware that /dominula/ was a noun have misspelled the species name as "dominulus" for decades. 
Another cause of the confusion in the species' name was the ambiguous distinction between masculine and feminine genitive nouns.^[5] <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polistes_dominula#cite_note-5> ."

It's remarkable what bryologists chance upon.

Sean

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sean Edwards, Thursley, Surrey
email: sean.r.edwards at btinternet.com


On 20/10/2018 16:23, John Grehan wrote:
> In reference to some brief discussion of gender rules in taxonomy I 
> have appended below the text from an article on the subject that may 
> be of passing interest. First published just over 50 years ago and 
> seems to be still relevant today. Any mistyping my responsibility.
>
> John Grehan
>
> Goddess Changes Sex, or the Gender Game
>
> John R. G. Turner
>
> Systematic Zoology, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Dec., 1967), pp. 349-350
>
> In his recent criticism of the gender rule in zoological nomenclature, 
> Moore (1966) discusses the difficulty of deciding on the gender of a genus:
> he does not mention a problem that I have found most teasing – 
> discovering whether a specific name is substantive, and therefore 
> invariant, or adjectival, and therefore with a variable ending. It may 
> be reasonable to expect zoologists to manage  -*us, -a, -um* endings 
> and the more awake ones to manage  *-is, -is, -e,* but they can hardly 
> be expected to have an extensive knowledge of Latin and Greek 
> adjectives, much less of classical mythology. The sneaking pleasure 
> that I, and perhaps others, derive from exercising scholastic 
> pedantry, thereby feeling in touch with the great stream of Western 
> Culture, hardly compensates for the time spent hunting through Latin and Greek dictionaries.
>
> In working on the evolution of the South American butterfly genus
> *Heliconius* (e.g. Turner, 1965) I have had to sort out some of its 
> very tangled systematics and nomenclature. The trouble is that there 
> is a tradition going right back to Linnaeus of giving the species the 
> names of nymphs and muses (*Heliconius* = dweller on Mount Helicon), 
> so that one has a masculine genus with a feminine species; moreover, 
> there was at one time a feminine genus *Heliconia*, now in synonymy, 
> with which some of the adjectival names agreed. As classical names ran 
> out, systematists named the butterflies after their wives, rivers with 
> classical-sounding names, saints and opera-heroines; one needs to know 
> not only mythology, but biogeography, geography, hagiography, and musicology.
>
> Understandably, systematists have changed endings that should have 
> remained, and unable to master the many names of Venus and all the 
> other ladies, have come up with *cytherus, veustus *(“Scandal in 
> temple. Vestal Virgins say *We are just good friends*”), *eulalius, 
> egerius, antigonus,
> lucius* and so on. Now these are deliberate emendations, and under the 
> *Code *are strictly junior synonyms, to be taken into account in 
> future revisions. In addition to these very clear cases, there are 
> some that are almost impossible to decide, at least without consulting 
> a classicist. Did Linnaeus intend *charitonia*, frequently rendered 
> *charitonius* (from *Charites*, the Graces), to be an artificial noun 
> or an adjective, and if the latter, why did he not make it agree with 
> its genus (*Papilio* at that time)? Did Cramer intend *numata* to be 
> some obscure nymph (an appellation of Egeria perhaps, who taught the 
> mythical Numa), or did he just mis-spell
> *nummata* (=wealthy); and again, why did it not agree? (See also 
> Turner,
> 1967.)
>
> The gender rule not only promotes instability of names which are 
> adjectival, it wastes much time in deciding difficult cases, and when 
> a hard-worked zoologist does not notice that the name is substantive, 
> results in an unnecessary synonym. Surely, the only sensible thing to 
> do is retain the original spelling of all names (Barring misprints), 
> even as far as the termination.
>
> John R.G. Turner
> Department of Biology
> University of York,
> York, England
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> Nurturing Nuance while Assaulting Ambiguity for 31 Some Years, 1987-2018.

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