Fwd: how to write the plural of latin and greek words in english ...
Shueyi at aol.com
Shueyi at aol.com
Sun Oct 25 19:07:35 EST 1998
In an amazing coincidence of timing, this post was just sent out on the
taxacon list server. It seems to have a fair amount of relevance for the
In a message dated 10/25/98 4:19:30 PM Central Standard Time,
dochterland at VILLAGE.UUNET.BE writes:
<< Thomas Schlemmermeyer wrote:
> Folks, I have a small problem:
> In the english language the plural is formed, most commonly, by appending
> a "s", in greek and latin the equivalent transformations are different.
> So, "taxon" gets "taxons" in english, but "taxa" in greek.
> "imago" gets "imagos" in english, but "imagines" in latin.
> "tibia" gets "tibias" in english, but "tibiae"in latin.
> And so on!
> Intuitively, I would always use the latin or greek version, but, in fact,
> I know that they often use the english versions in publications.
> What are the general recommendations on this topic?
In my view, for all questions regarding latin and greek, there is only
one address: Howard Don Cameron, Professor of latin and greek at
Michigan University and keen amateur arachnologist. I propounded the
question to him and this was his reply:
"Jan, good to hear from you again, even when you present me with
controversial problems. The taxonomic and morphological terms originated
(for the most part) in the dear old days when everybody wrote in Latin
from Aldrovandus to the 20th century (Simon's keys), and the tradition
been to use the proper Latin and (latinized) Greek plurals. It is only
very recently that this convention has been shaken. It seems to me that
the use of the proper Latin and Greek plurals is always unquestionably
correct, but the use of neologistic English plurals is always doubtful
questionable. International terminology will usually be traditional and
grammatically correct; the innovation of English plurals will always be
parochial and peculiar to English publications (and then only some of
them). The Latin and Greek plurals contribute to stability and
universality. Besides, as you observe "taxons" is unsupportably ugly.
If you think my opinion is useful, do pass it on.
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From: Jan Bosselaers <dochterland at VILLAGE.UUNET.BE>
Subject: Re: how to write the plural of latin and greek words in english
Date: Mon, 26 Oct 1998 00:20:35 +0100
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