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Re: New iguanodonts in PLoS ONE

I don't think this is a generational issue. There are several generations of paleontologists in SVP and there are members of each generation to which this does matter. I see this as reflecting some degree of professionalism and care for detail. I don't see it as trivial.

And depending on what kind of job one is interviewing for, not knowing which side the salad fork goes on could cost you the job.


On 11/23/2010 11:49 PM, Mickey Mortimer wrote:
I never said we should treat Latin and Greek differently from Chinese,
Mongolian, or any other language.  "Respect" for something abstract like
  a language or a dead culture falls squarely into the category of
something we don't need to be concerned with.  It's an issue like the
salad fork- no one's harmed by breaking the rule.  It's all about
tradition, appearences, being proper and cultured, etc..  Nothing that
influences the science at all.

Mickey Mortimer

Date: Wed, 24 Nov 2010 15:53:32 +1100
From: tijawi@gmail.com
To: dinosaur@usc.edu
Subject: Re: New iguanodonts in PLoS ONE

Mickey Mortimer  wrote:

But seriously, I have to ask if there is any good reason for caring about using 
proper Latin or Greek in scientific names.  We're not
actually speaking the language, just making labels for taxa.  Surely it doesn't 
matter how we make the label as long as we can
communicate it.  Maybe it's a generational thing, but being picky over the 
formation of names strikes me as something only someone
who uses aescs and cares where their salad fork goes would be concerned with.

As someone who doesn't know where the salad fork goes (aside from into
the salad at some point), I do care that names are formed correctly.
After all, when new genus and species names are put together using
extant languages (such as Chinese or Mongolian), the authors ensure
that the names are correctly formed. This is done out of respect to
the local languages, and is entirely appropriate. The ability to
correctly form these names is presumably due to at least one of the
authors being a native speaker in that tongue (or knows somebody who
is) and is therefore familiar with something as basic as how to
combine two or more words.

Therefore, I don't understand why different rules apply to Ancient
Greek or Latin, where you seem to be suggesting it's okay to be
sloppy. Sure, these are effectively 'dead' languages. But they were
once living languages, and they still have an enormous influence on
English vocabulary. Moreover, the ancient cultures that spoke Latin
and Greek also happen to represent the pillars of Western
civilization, so due care should be taken to ensure that we get the
names right. I can't speak either Greek or Latin; but as a native
English speaker who grew up with words that have Latin or Greek roots,
even I know that '_Gigantspinosaurus_' is just plain wrong.

I have no beef with _Iguanocolossus_. But what's the harm in ensuring
that dinosaur nomenclature doesn't continue to churn out horribly
malformed monikers like _Gigantspinosaurus_ or _Aberratiodontus_or
_Confuciusornis_... simply because the respective authors were too
lazy to consult an expert on how to string together two or three Latin
or Greek words. In these three particular cases, the names seemed to
have been coined by Chinese speakers, who probably had little if any
familiarity with Latin or Greek. But if we are going to exercise due
care (as we should) that Chinese-derived names such as _Guanlong_
("crowned dragon") and _Shanweiniao_ ("fan-tailed bird") are properly
formed, why not extend the same courtesy to Latin- and Greek-derived