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cladistics and names -Reply

>>> "King, Norm" <nking.ucs@smtp.usi.edu> 12/21/98 11:49am >>>

>Ralph Chapman wrote (12/21/98; 8:21a):

>>At the time I first came here to NMNH on a 10 week graduate 
student fellowship, I got to know the three world's experts on 
calymenid trilobites, 2 of them British and very serious about 
their pronunciations. No two of them pronounced the genus 
Flexicalymene the same.<

> And see how far you get before someone objects to how you 
> pronounce "stromatoporoid".  In my early work, I ran into trouble with
> some species names: "platinus" and "lusatiae", for example (inoceramid
> bivalves).  I think it is clear from the etymology that the Burgess Shale 
> lancelet Pikaia should be pronounced pie-kah-ee-ah, but the people
> who named it do not.  I have always asserted, including in discussions > on 
> this list, that  the way an expert pronounces a name is correct,
> even if different experts pronounce it differently.  

I've seen people get hit for supposed pronunciation short-comings in various 
contexts. Almost inevitably, in my opinion, it reflects badly on the person 
making the complaint because it is, again in my opinion, an unimportant problem 
and we have enough important ones to worry about. Usually shows the complainer 
can't come up with a real question and feels frustrated that he/she can't 
actually say something interesting to show how smart they think they are. So 
they come up with something that they believes gives them an upper hand. Never 
works for me and almost inevitably the compainer is saying something totally 
arbitrary, anyhow. You can always ask them how they know how the ancient Greeks 
or Romans would say it. I sure don't. I suspect they varied a good bit 

     The Burgess names can be something interesting because many are derived 
from native American words and I do try and give a pronunciation approximating 
the way they would do it, although I suspect I'm still really off and would 
have them in stitches if they heard me. So I do say pik-ay-a because I think. 
perhaps incorrectly that that is the way they would say it. As for something 
like platinus, who cares whether you say plat-in-us or pla-tine-us.  When I was 
young, I used to correct it when people said tril-o-bite rather than 
tri-lobe-ite. The latter is correct, I believe and reflects the three little 
lobes that define the trilobite (These are the axial and 2 pleural lobes and 
not the head-thorax-pygidium that most people think, by the way). Haven't 
worried about it much since I was 18, though. And at least in this case, there 
is a good reason for doing it the second way.

>How do you feel about Compsognathus?
If it's alive, very carefully. ba-dum-dum. But seriously ladies and germs... 
I always pronounce it comp-sog-nath-us even though I suspect Comp-so-nath-us is 
correct if you go by classical languages. But you know who I'm talking about 

>>Names shift all the time as we try to get a better and better 
phylogeny. Get used to it. There are aspects of cladistic procedures
that I find personally annoying . . [snip].  We  need more moderates 
(funny to hear that from Washington).< 

>I am a cladistic moderate.  But I'm not going to preface everything I say 
with that admission.  That might suggest I don't feel strongly about 

Just because I'm a moderate does not mean I don't feel strongly or have a solid 
reason for what I do. Fanatics always mistake a willingless to reason and 
discuss as lack of passion rether than the dialectic at work. Actually, I'm 
very passionate about knowing the answer. i just don't have a vested interest 
in what that will be, whether it be dino-birds, head-banging pachys, etc. I 
just want to know and will require everyone to present strong arguments on all 
sides, including myself. Otherwise, we don't really get the answer, which is 
what I want. Either way, dinos are really neat so who cares what we end up at.

Ralph Chapman