Message 2002-04-0007: Re: Gender of species names?

Mon, 22 Apr 2002 12:55:10 -0500

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Date: Mon, 22 Apr 2002 12:55:10 -0500
From: "Jonathan R. Wagner" <>
To: Philip Cantino <>,
Subject: Re: Gender of species names?

Dr. Cantino wrote:
> [...] Names should be nouns, but epithets like
> americana, latifolia, purpurea, etc. are descriptive adjectives.  [...]

This is an interesting point, but I don't see it as a problem.

    Linne supposedly considered the genus to be "the important thing," with
species as descriptors. I see no problem with a species epithet as a
descriptor in the context of the "important" clade address. For an
herpetological example: barbata ("bearded" [?]) works equally well as Pogona
barbata ("the bearded Pogona"), Agamida barbata ("the bearded agamid"),
Iguania barbata ("the bearded iguanian"), or Squamata barbata ("the bearded

    So, if the species epithet is viewed (as species names commonly are) as
incomplete without an address, then we have a non-issue. If barabata is
"half a name," then its meaning independent of this phrase does not matter.
To stave off anticipated criticism, this point is centered on how YOU view
nomenclature, not on rules. We need not mandate a clade address; you can use
the address if you feel the epithet is "naked" or nonsensical without it, or
you can accept the unpleasant nomenclatural connotations and move on.

    Also, to continue Keesey's point, even in English we have adjectives
used as nouns... we just generally precede them with an article (a part of
speech notably absent in Latin), e.g., "the poor," "[hey] gorgeous," "the
good," "the bad," and "the ugly."



Feedback to <> is welcome!