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Re: Plurals (was Re: *SPOILERS*Re: LW STEGOSAUR TAIL)



At 06:27 AM 5/14/97 -0500, Richard.L.Dieterle wrote:
>Th. Holtz wrote: 
>
>"BUT
>
>T. rex, as a proper name, is never plural.
>
>This puzzles me a bit.  It would seem to me that given the usual wide latitude 
>in English, we could use the proper name with a "Saxon" plural, or we could 
>treat it as Latin and use that language's (nominative) conventions.  Now if
the 
>nomenclature people have not standardized plurals in this context,

As discussed below, there ARE no plurals...

>it ought to 
>be all right to fall back on other conventions, it seems to me.  In any
case, if
>you say "There were two T rex," you are using a de facto plural anyway, namely 
>the zero grade as in 'sheep'.  I think people are probably safest with "Saxon" 
>plurals, as in, " 'Jesus' was a common name in ancient Palestine.

Heck, it still is, and is still pronounced the old-fashioned way: Yeshua.

>There may 
>have been hundreds of Jesuses contemporaneous with the famous Nazarene."  
>Besides, if we had a couple of drinks first, I think we could whip these 
>nomenclature guys good.  So I reckon we ought to continue doing as we please. 

Nope.  Sorry.  However, I see the misunderstanding.

There is only one Tyrannosaurus rex.  Just one.  The species, Tyrannosaurus
rex, is a single entity.  There is only one Tyrannosaurus rex, there is only
one Homo sapiens, there is only one Vertebrata, there is only one Animalia.
Taxa are single entities.

The taxon "Tyrannosaurus rex" is composed of individual organisms, true.
Any of those individuals, however, is a specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex, not
(strictly speaking) Tyrannosaurus rex.

We already have vernacular versions of many living taxa (human [pl. humans],
vertebrate [pl. vertebrates], animal [pl. animals]) which represent the
individuals of that taxon.  The same goes for suprageneric fossil taxa
(tyrannosaurids, dicynodontians, or trilobites, as examples).  It is at the
generic and specific level that we run into a language problem.

>"or just "tyrannosaurs" might suffice)."
>
>I don't know ...  Suppose a paleoanthropologist wrote, "Everyone of us was 
>transported with unparalleled excitement when we discovered two Homo erecti at 
>our dig site."  If the "Saxon" plural were used with just the genus name, this 
>could be seriously misleading.   

Technically speaking, they should write "...when we discovered two specimens
(or two individuals) of Homo erectus...".

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist     Webpage: http://www.geol.umd.edu
Dept. of Geology              Email:th81@umail.umd.edu
University of Maryland        Phone:301-405-4084
College Park, MD  20742       Fax:  301-314-9661