Re: OT: latin pronunciation
Gary -- Thanks for broadening our perspective by adding the pharmacist's
view. As to the pronunciation of pseudacorus, I would have to subscribe to
Fassett's pronunciation of pseu-DACK-orus. I say I would have to because,
like Dave Ferguson, I have been pronouncing it "pseud-a-CORE-us"; however, I
see that Wyman's Gardening Encyclopedia gives the pronunciation of Acorus as
AK-or-us, so, when "pseudo" and "acorus" are conjoined (with the "o" being
eclipsed by the "a"), the pronunciation of the principal word would be kept,
while simply adding "pseud" as the prefix. Thus, pseud-ACK-orus.
See further comments interspersed below.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Gary White" <email@example.com>
Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 2005 3:59 PM
Subject: Re: [iris] OT: latin pronunciation
> Oneofcultivars@aol.com wrote:
> "I tested the garden pronunciation with pseudacorus. I saved it
> though it failed the latin pronunciation in the classical sense."
> The aquatic iris, Iris pseudacorus L., is certainly one of the most
> controversial as far as pronunciation is concerned. I know it has been
> discussed here several times before. And, there are 2 different
> pronunciations that usually come up, either pseu-DACK-orus or
> pseu-duh-CORE-us. Its interesting that in college, when I was working
> on my thesis on the aquatic plants of the Cheat and Greenbrier rivers in
> WV, my major professor, Dr. Jesse Clovis, insisted that it should be
> pronounced Iris pseu-DAY-kur-us. His reasoning was that this iris was
> named pseudacorus, meaning false acorus, after Acorus calamus, and his
> pronunciation of that genus was AY-kur-us. Acorus calamus is an
> emergent aquatic plant species with very similar foliage to Iris
> pseudacorus, but otherwise totally unrelated, though its common name is
> "sweet flag". At any rate, Acorus is sometimes pronounced AY-kur-us
> (many references pronounce it ACK-orus, however), so it follows that
> Iris pseudacorus could be pseu-DAY-kur-us. And, Dr. Clovis' reference
> for this pronunciation was Walter C. Muenscher, his major professor at
> Cornell University in the 1940's, a leading authority on aquatic botany
> and the author of Aquatic Plants of The United States. On the other
> hand, Norman Fassett, renowned Botany professor at the University of
> Wisconsin in the middle of the last century, and author of the classic,
> Manual of Aquatic Plants, pronounced this iris as . These
> two men were probably the leading American authorities on aquatic botany
> in the middle of the last century, yet they differed in their
> pronuciation of pseudacorus. I also checked several other works,
> including several state and regional floras. Most of those don't
> include pronunciation notations. However, of the few that did (Gray's
> Manual of Botany, The Flora of the Northeastern US, and a couple of
> others), all of them put the emphasis on the second syllable, not the
> third. Therefore, according to all these references with pronunciation
> notations, "pseudacorus" is preferably pronounced either pseu-DACK-orus
> or pseu-DAY-cur-us, not pseu-duh-CORE-us. It would seem that
> pseu-DACK-orus is the predominant pronunciation from the references I
> Having said all of that, William T. Stern, in his 560 page book
> Botanical Latin, says: "Botanical Latin is essentially a written
> language, but the scientific names of plants often occur in speech. How
> they are pronounced really matters little provided they sound pleasant
> and are understood by all concerned. This is most likely to be attained
> by pronouncing them in accordance with the rules of classical Latin
> pronunciation." I guess all this just points to what others have said,
> that the real importance is in conveying accurately what you are talking
> about, regardless how you pronounce it.
> jgcrump wrote:
> >Latin, in America, is still used mostly in three fields: the law,
> >and science other than medicine(chiefly botanical), and mostly by people
> >have never studied Latin, or at least not seriously. We needn't worry
> >about doctors, because they seldom attempt to say anything in Latin, and
> >what they write is discipherable only by pharmacists, so the harm isn't
> I also had to respond to this note since I've been a practicing hospital
> pharmacist for well over 2 decades. I'm sure your meaning about harm
> not being spread was in reference to the harm to classical Latin
But you are right in that pharmacists are pretty
> skilled at reading Doctors' writing, mostly out of lots of experience at
> it, and knowledge of drugs, doses, and latin abbreviations. And, we
> become accustomed to specific doctor's handwriting and signatures, if in
> a small hospital or town. It becomes much more problematic in large
> hospitals (500 physicians with privileges now in the hospital I work in)
> and larger cities. Having said that, some doctors' poor handwriting
> (and wrong interpetation) has contributed to numerous med errors, some
> even fatal, so there certainly is harm in bad handwriting. For the most
> part though, pharmacists get it right a vast majority of the time, and
> are really mindful of patient safety. By the way, among the most useful
> classes I took in high school were 2 years of Latin, and typing. ;)
> jgcrump wrote:
> >Botanists, generally unpretentious folks who say "dusty miller" rather
than centaurea cineraria,have nevertheless picked up (probably from lawyers)
the grating habit of
> >putting a hard "i" on the end of any Latin term in the possessive, such
> >Phlox drummondi (phlox drummond-eye).
> I was taught that a single i at the end of a latin name such as Phlox
> drummondi can be pronounced as ee, as in drummond-ee.
So was I, in both classical and vulgar.
But if the name
> has a double i at the end such as Spiraea thunbergii, it is pronounced
> thunberg-ee-eye, because each vowel is pronounced.
Yes, I've heard that, and it's very common, but it's not Latin. The Latin
rendering of "ii" is "ee-ee".
> botanists (at least systematists), might say "dusty miller" or "white
> pine" in casual conversation, they are detail oriented people and aren't
> satisfied with a common name like goldenrod. They would be attempting
> to identify which of many many species of goldenrod it is, and that
> would require the scientific name such as Solidago canadensis or S.
> rigida, etc.
> Finally, it seems to me that Latin as with every other language, would
> have had numerous dialects. And, I would bet that even the most
> strident proponent of speaking "classical" Latin would not be a very
> competent (or easily understood) speaker of the language if he/she were
> in a conversation with Julius Ceaser or Pontius Pilot or Pliny. After
> all, didn't French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, etc all arise from
> Latin? That in itself, indicates that Latin was quite variable.
Surely. With generations of Romans growing up in widely separated parts of
the far-flung empire, there must have been mutually unkind references to
each others' accents.
> When checking all of this out, I consulted a couple of botanists I know
> at the University of Nebraska, and also TAXACOM, an e-mail discussion
> group for taxonomic biologists. Here is a quote from Curtis Clark at
> Cal State Poly that I found particularly useful:
> "There are no extant sound recordings from the time of Cicero,
Now, there is something for which we can be truly grateful. If there were
anything worse than having to read Cicero, it would surely be having to
listen to him. What I gained from reading Cicero was a realization of how
far back political hacks go.
> treatises on pronunciation of Latin for barbarians.
But if there had been, I can see the title now: "Lingua Latina pro
Stipitibus" (Latin for Dummies).
> pronunciation is *reconstructed*, by comparison of latinized foreign
> names (especially Greek and Phoenician, that have their own historical
> record, and German, for which there is a historical record from the
> early Middle Ages), by analysis of verse with rhyme and meter, and other
> sorts of comparisons. And, at best, Classical pronunciation is
> *literate* pronunciation."
> Sorry for the length of this post. This was a particularly interesting
> subject string, and as you can see, I got way too caught up in it. Now,
> I'm headed out to do something more physical, like prune my grape vines.
> Cheers, Gary White, Lincoln Nebraska RVP Region 21
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