[Taxacom] Goddess Changes Sex, or the Gender Game: Polistes dominula
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 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
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",^ <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.^ <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polistes_dominula#cite_note-5> ."
It's remarkable what bryologists chance upon.
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
> 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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