Pronunciation of botanical names questions

cactus_dude(Tucson)April 5, 2006

In botanical names, how is "ae" generally pronounced? For example, is Ferocactus herrerae pronounced "herrer-ay", "herrer-eye" or "herrer-ee"? Or another example is Caesalpinia gilliesii: "see-salpinia" or "say-salpinia"

Also, is Pachycereus pringlei pronounced "pringle-eye" or "pringle-ee"? Thanks!

cd

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The_Mohave__Kid(Nevada)

The way I learned it from an old botanist .. in Fabaceae .. Asteraceae .. Cactaceae "ae" is pronounced "ee" as in meat... the family ending "aceae" is pronounced ... "ay" as in bay .. "see" as in key .. "ee" ... as in pee... so aceae is ay-see-ee. Stearn's botanical Latin seems to back this up but only if one were using a traditional english system of latin. There are other systems .. too many for me .. but the english system he claims is the one used by english gardeners and botanist.

He goes on to say .. " Botanical latin is essentially a written language, but the scientific names often occur in speech. How the names are pronounced really matters little provided they sound pleasant and are understood by all concerned." ... that's cool with me.

Based on what I gather from Stearn's book ...

Pringlei would be Pring li the i as in height.

Caesalpinia ... Kay sal pin i ay ... assuming the i is short as in pit and the a long as in say. Although myslef I have been happy with sessal pinnia for years.

herrerae I myself would go with "herrer- ee" .. so as not to wake up any latin folks from the dead but the choice is yours.

In other words latin is a dead language so who are you going to offend ? Few botanist under 50 can speak the stuff ? LOL

Good Day ...

    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 4:44PM
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taxonomist(7b VA)

I;ll have to agree with the Mojave Kid; botanical Latin may be pronounced in almost any fashion. I studied classical Latin for two years and each day I hear the language grossly mistreated. Almost every horticultural school program teaches the students the incorrect pronunciation. As was stated by the Kid,pronounce the silly word any way you choose as long as it conveys the info you wish to convey. For laughs, ask any high school Latin teacher how a particular botanical name should be pronounced: You'll be amazed at the crazy answers. This is 2006-who cares?

    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 8:02PM
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pineresin

The recommended pronunciation is to follow classic Latin pronunciation (as used by Caesar, Cicero, etc), thus -ae as in "eye". However, as already mentioned, few gardeners actually do so, with some dreadful mispronunciations being very common.

Resin

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 7:00AM
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cactus_dude(Tucson)

Thanks All-

It's funny because the Latin I took in middle school was pronounced very differently from the Latin I took in college. Even between cactus collectors like me, I hear wide and varying pronunciations of botanical names. Thanks again for your replies.

Regards,
cd

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 10:54AM
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paalexan(NM)

Since most of the examples you give are based on modifications of people's names, it's worth mentioning that the rule of thumb in this case is to pronounce the name as it would have been pronounced by the person whose name it is (or your best guess thereat) and just stick the ending on. So pringlei is just Pringle with a long i ("eye") stuck on the end. Caesalpinia is named after Caesalpino, who was Italian; I don't know Italian pronunciation, though, so can't do much better than guess.

Resin wrote:
"The recommended pronunciation is to follow classic Latin pronunciation (as used by Caesar, Cicero, etc), thus -ae as in "eye". However, as already mentioned, few gardeners actually do so, with some dreadful mispronunciations being very common."

To be honest, I haven't heard any US botanist either recommend or practice classic Latin pronunciation, and would expect practicing it to simply be an easy way to confuse your audience. The -aceae ending, which in the US is universally pronounced "ay-see-ee" suddenly becomes "ah-kay-eye" (approximately, anyways), which is pretty well unrecognizable and would probably just get blank stares. Might be "proper", but propriety doesn't necessarily help communication, which is, after all, the purpose of the whole thing.

Patrick Alexander

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 8:08PM
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pinetree30(Sierra Westside)

In the examples given above it doesn't make any real difference, but I think there are times when it does. I taught dendrology for years and often found myself in conflict with other professors. For example, the common US pronunciation of (Pinus) monticola is mon-TICK-ala, which completely destroys its elements monti (mountain) and cola (dweller). I taught students to say monti-cola to preserve the meaning. Same with (Pinus) monophylla. The common pronunciation mon-OFF-ala is an abomination; much better is mono-FILLA. Most names cannot be handled this way but I think it makes sense to do this whenever possible instead of following some imagined rule of emphasizing a second or third syllable.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 10:36PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Hi
One that has particularly bugged me is the genus name Johannesteijsmannia or Shomburgkia.Try saying that in Latin lol.
gary

    Bookmark   April 23, 2006 at 7:09AM
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paalexan(NM)

Johannesteijsmannia? Just pronounce the guy's name (Johannes Teijsmann; Johannes should be straightforward, Teijsmann is a bit odd; apparently something like taish-MONN) and stick an "ee-ah" on the end. Doesn't matter how it would be pronounced in Latin, since it's not a Latin name...

Patrick Alexander

    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 8:48PM
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pineresin

"Johannesteijsmannia? Just pronounce the guy's name (Johannes Teijsmann; Johannes should be straightforward, Teijsmann is a bit odd; apparently something like taish-MONN) and stick an "ee-ah" on the end"

Remember 'J' is pronounced as 'y' in Germanic languages, so 'yohannes', and 'teiysmann'. At the end, '-ia', not that ghastly aspirated '-ah'!

Thus: 'Yohannesteiysmannia'

Resin

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 4:00AM
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paalexan(NM)

"At the end, '-ia', not that ghastly aspirated '-ah'!"

Ghastly it may be, but it's the American way!

(a sentence we could use in many contexts)

Patrick Alexander

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 9:41PM
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