Message 2005-05-0024: Re: PhyloCode

Mon, 14 Mar 2005 13:03:26 -0800 (PST)

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Date: Mon, 14 Mar 2005 13:03:26 -0800 (PST)
From: [unknown]
To: Yisrael Asper <>, phylocode@ouvaxa.cats.o=
Subject: Re: PhyloCode

Yisrael Asper ( wrote:

<To an extent you are right. But the terminology gets included in
dictionaries as lets say definition #1, 2 etc. People who are not
scientists rely heavily on dictionaries. Dictionaries in turn rely
exclusively on the people. A scientific conference can get its way in=
dictionary once it has been immediately even accepted by the people.>

  Language is funny. Seriously.

  Take the word "dude," for example, now used in slang alliteration
without much of a concrete concept, yet not a hundred years before it
referred to a gentleman. The presence of "dude ranches" in the Americ=
West were established under this old terminology before language chan=
the meaning gradually.

  "Evolution" had a connotation of development towards a maximum (kno=
wn or
unknown) or ultimate condition, such as the "evolution of life toward=
man" and was used primarily in explaining the progressive embryonic
development through "all the stages of life," as it has been describe=
d in
the past. The word now means something else, and perhaps something so=
exact in meaning it requires volumes to describe it. We could as easi=
ly be
using another word, but instead we use "evolution."=20

  There are things even in other languages that cannot be "defined" b=
those languages, such as Japanese _maru_.

  My #1 problem with dictionaries is that dictionaries are written by
people. People make assumptions and mistakes. Dictionaries contain
assumptions and mistakes. They may not carry the weight the word brin=
gs in
truth, and they are made from sometimes concensus opinions, reference=
older dictionaries, or regional usage. Brits and Yanks can argue on h=
ow to
spell colour, and the word "Yank" means something different to an Ame=
or a Britishman -- or an Aussie. Tom Holtz starts his class telling y=
the difference between a moose and an elk is not what you think, depe=
on where you're from. There's a Florida panther, cougar, and puma, so=
which actually occur as recognized subspecies of *Felis concolor* (or
*Puma concolor*); but my dictionary says they're the same thing. The
dictionary is both right and wrong. "Dinosaur" means something to the
layfolk it does NOT mean to those who study them, and vice versa, and
lately "Reptilia" is undergoing a shift wherein phylogenic studies ar=
revising how we look at groups of animals and whether names for group=
should reflect their biology, or not. Then there's the vernacular for=
"birds," which means anything between the clades Maniraptora and the
common flying rat---er, pigeon, yet any person will tell you what is =
is not a bird if you give them a few pictures.

  Birds are like pornography, perhaps.


Jaime A. Headden

  Little steps are often the hardest to take.  We are too used to mak=
ing leaps in the face of adversity, that a simple skip is so hard to =
do.  We should all learn to walk soft, walk small, see the world arou=
nd us rather than zoom by it.

"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)

Do you Yahoo!?=20
Yahoo! Small Business - Try our new resources site!


Feedback to <> is welcome!