Genus vs. Genos

Dawn, Douglas Douglas.Dawn at
Fri May 2 23:13:00 EDT 1997

>From: Kenelm Philip
>Subject: Re: Noctuidae tax. - Heliothis & Euxoa
>Date: Viernes 2 de Mayo de 1997 2:16PM

Kenelm wrote:

>Colin Plant stated that the word 'genus' (pl. genera) was Greek. It is
>my understanding that 'genos' is Greek, but 'genus', 'genera' is Latin.

You are both right, it is just a matter of how accurate you want to
trace the sound back.

As Kenelm points out, the words are directly from Latin, which seems
logical since it was a strong contender for the language of science
during the mid 1700's when Karl von Linne (i.e. Carolus Linnaeus who
latinized everything in accordance to his scientific naming in Latin
scheme, including his own name) published his work on nomenclature.

But while Latin is a relatively new language, Greek significantly
predated it, according to current language definition.  It would be
interesting to know what the root was in Italic, the precursor to Latin.
 That very well could have had a Greek influence, to Colin's point.

In any case, a more original language of our cave dwelling ancestors,
nowadays proposed to be called "IndoEuropean" is the real root of this
sound in which modern Latin gave the exact spelling of the singular and
plural forms of genus.  The IndoEuropean sound is proposed to be "gen",
with a little "ch" character to the "g".  Sanscrit also developed from
IndoEuropean, and a Hindi or Urdu speaking member of the group might add
its roots, which should be modern day variants.  Same is the case with
Slavic languages, maybe a Pole, Russian, Bulgarian, etc. can help here.
Greek is one of the only languages which has remained very similar to
its original breakoff from IndoEuropean.  Peasant Lithuanian was little
changed from Baltic, in turn little changed from IndoEuropean, I
remember hearing, as another example.  But to my knowledge, it not
recognized by experts as a distinct language.

Apparently, the root of genus is manifested in German as Child (pl.
Children), English as Kind.  Depending on how soft you pronounce the "g"
in the original root "gen", you can easily see how the English and
German sounds could be construed to come from the same root.  Note how
close the plural sound of "genera" is to "children".  (g<==>ch).  "Gen",
the IndoEuropean root means something like <to make a kind, to
procreate>, consider the words <humankind>, etc. to understand the
meaning of "kind".  The word "Genesis" may have come directly from the
Greek through Latin.

I was motivated to write this reply not to lecture (everything is
deduced from the 1988 edition of Webster's New World Dictionary), but
rather because I became excited about the remarkably close analogy of
etymological evolution is to entomological speciation:

Consider the precursor species.  Consider Libytheana like Greek.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I bet bachmanni could be considered a
relatively ancient species.  If not, there are others you know that can.
 If anyone makes it this far in this message, please e-mail the group a
list of ancient, relavitively lesser changed species (with time frames
if known).  Greek, like N.A. Libytheana sp. probably are not much
changed during the recent evolutionary periods.  Then there is Latin
which turned into many officially recognized languages.  Not unlike the
Helioconids?  When do we officially recognize a language as distinct?
Who absolutely has the authority to define when subspecies or species
are distinct?

Is British, American, Australian, East Indian English, West Indian
English, African American English, not similar to many examples of
butterflies for which are hot topics in scientific nomenclature today.
Which will eventually converge and diverge and what are the pressures
causing the evolution.

Now, if you have read this far, you may appreciate the following -
Languages may eventually converge, go extinct, until one or few remain.
A science fiction plot (or horror flick for future Lepidopterists) would
be as humanity makes the world more uniform (look at Los Angeles or the
Northeast Corridor), the diversification of species will reverse as do
languages in the language hypothesis.  I am note concentrating on the
man drives other species to extinction idea here as much as the
equilibrium that must be reached if we become topheavy in species vs.
niches.  Why not?  Less host plants, less variety of ecosystems, less
diversity of preditors for the same reasons, etc.

Like with languages, the reduction in diversity mentioned could drive
those on the verge of separation back together, since the separation in
the first place is assumed to be caused by adaptation to diverse
habitats.  On the bright side, there would still be the science of
nomenclature: we could spend time debating exactly when species have
converged or gone extinct.  Think of the wishful thinking excitement
that would be generated (note root is "gen") if a Xerces blue were found
again after all though it was extinct?

saludos...DOUG DAWN

From: Kenelm Philip
To: leps-l at
Subject: Re: Noctuidae tax. - Heliothis & Euxoa
Date: Viernes 2 de Mayo de 1997 2:16PM

Colin Plant stated that the word 'genus' (pl. genera) was Greek. It is
my understanding that 'genos' is Greek, but 'genus', 'genera' is Latin.

							Ken Philip
fnkwp at

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