Antennae vs. antennas

Kenelm Philip fnkwp at
Sun Oct 18 16:22:26 EDT 1998

	With exquisite timing, Jeffrey Glassberg (head of NABA) has just
produced an editorial in the fall '98 issue of 'American Butterflies'
entitled 'To Communicate or To Intimidate: That is the Question'. He
suggests that the Latin-derived terminology of entomology exists, in
part, to "set up entry barriers to outsiders."

	With that concept in mind, he makes the following recommendations:

What lepidopterists say			What they _should_ say

Larva					Caterpillar (a more precise term)
Oviposit				Lay eggs
Proboscis				Tongue
Antennae				Antennas

Glassberg's reasoning for recommending 'tongue' is worth quoting:

	"Or, show a picture of a butterfly nectaring at a flower to a thou-
sand people, and ask them what is that structure coming out of the butter-
fly's mouth and probing the flower. Nine-hundred ninety-five people, in-
cluding all the children, will answer, "a tongue." Ask a lepidopterist
this question and they will answer, "a proboscis." "  He then points out
that although a butterfly's proboscis is not homologous with a mammalian
tongue, neither is it homologous with a mammalian proboscis.

	What I note about this is Glassberg's remark about the structure
"coming out of the butterfly's mouth". Not a very accurate description
of the organs involved...

	I suppose one could carry this further, and describe butterflys'
legs, the longest segments of which are the 'thigh' and the 'shin', being
attached to the 'chest'. Etc. The point Glassberg appears to be making is
that people will become interested in butterflies more easily if they
have to learn less to do so. (The NABA is also championing the cause of
standardized 'common' names for butterflies.)

	When I look at the non-scientific things that people get deeply
interested in, I see something different. I see that people are willing,
indeed eager, to learn as many abstruse things about their interests as
they can. Listen to people disgorging baseball statistics, or arcane
data about cars. I am not sure that 'dumbing down' a subject is the best
way to increase interest. I think Glassberg is going at it backwards, so
to speak. People who are seriously interested in a subject will not cavil
at picking up its voabulary--all we need do is make that information
easily accessible.

							Ken Philip
fnkwp at

More information about the Leps-l mailing list