Antennae vs. antennas (another view)

Pavulaan at Pavulaan at
Wed Oct 21 23:40:05 EDT 1998

In a message dated 98-10-18, the one that started this all, Kenelm Philip

<<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." >>

Ken brought up a very interesting point about the editorial.  

Regardless of one's reasons for wishing to use scientific terms or "plain
English" tems, I don't see how anyone can believe entomologists would
deliberately "set up entry barriers to outsiders"(!).  I mean, we're talking
CONSPIRACY theory here.  Come on, Jeff, you don't really believe this?  

As a young, aspiring collector, I had a copy of Klot's classic Peterson Field
Guide to Eastern Butterflies as early as my 6th birthday, and borrowed every
book on entomology in my school library.  I took very great interest in
learning the names of all the body parts, numbering of wing cells and veins,
learning the latin names as well as the common ones, and used the latin-
derived terminology with ease.  I was not an amateur "want-to-sound-like
scientist", as Glassberg refers, nor was I learning an insider's code, to
deliberately intimidate outsiders.  I just wanted to learn it right.  And I
knew full well that "larva" referred to the same stage in many insects, and
that "caterpillar" specifically meant the larval stage of Lepidoptera (excuse
me: butterflies and moths).  I also knew the rules about adding an "e" to the
end of an "a"-ending word to make it plural.  It was following classic science
to a devotion.  If one kid can do it, surely others can, and adults can too.  

As a kid, I knew that a butterfly's feeding part was a proboscis, not a
tongue.   Under Glassberg's arguement, we could probably even call it the
"teeth"!  It is NOT a tongue or teeth, much as the "labial palpus" is not a
nose.  We could extend this arguement to birding, and say that the term "beak"
is too technical a term for Ornithological "outsiders".  Why not call the
beak: a pair of "lips" in plain English?  Or an Elephant's trunk a "nose".  

The point here is that the structure of Lepidopteran body parts is entirely
different from Mammalian physiology.  There are some analogies, but many of
the basic functioning parts are different.  A tongue is inside the mouth, and
tastes and moves  around food, delivers saliva to a wound, licks a stamp,
sticks out at people.  A proboscis is essentially a drinking straw.  Where is
the analogy?  A more analagous term would be to call the proboscis a "mouth". 

While I will grant Jeff the arguement that "caterpillar" is more specific to
the Lepidoptera (excuse me [bad habit]: butterflies and moths), I'll still
call them "larvae" in the presence of peers, but will try "caterpillars" with
kids, and guage their opinion on the matter.  But is it so hard for older NABA
members to understand what a butterfly larva is?  The English language
assimilates so many components from different languages.  We use bits of all
different languages daily, without question, and Latin is an important part of
our Language's heritage.  What is so hard about this?  

When we use a foreign language (in this case Latin) to describe things, we
have to follow that language's rules.  And Latin has been accepted by the
scientific community as the official universal language to name things in our
world.  Thus, the terms larva and larvae, not larvas.

Further, WHO decides which terms are deemed correct for "plain English", which
insect body part can be given a "dumbed-down" (as others have referred it)
body part name?  Is the NABA editorial hinting of a call for a
"standardization" of entomological terminology for NABA, as a next step?  

I hope that NABA members who REALLY want to learn much, much more about
butterflies and moths (eh, Lepidoptera) than simply looking at them and using
"plain English", will delve into the more serious side of Lepidoptera study
with an open mind and willingness to use all resources available to them to
learn more, including Latin-derived scientific terminology.

Harry Pavulaan

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