Letter

Published on 13 March 2014 in Letters

Blunt’s advice on the pronunciation of scientific names (Brit. Birds 102: 25­28) makes interesting reading and I wish those involved in promoting classical pronunciation every success. Such abominations as `Beauty-oh’ for Buteo (should be `Boo-teh-aw’), `Troglo-dietees’ for Troglodytes (Troglo-dee-tess) and `Puffyness’ for Puffinus (Poo-fee-noose), among many others, have always struck me as implausible ­ but I am a native speaker of Spanish as well as English. When scientific names are pronounced as Spanish words, or those of other Latin-derived languages, most of the advised criteria are met. I fear that it will take a lot to shift British usage away from the straitjacket of, especially, English vowel sounds, at least among those who do not also speak a Latin-derived language. Still, it is well worth a try.I read with amusement the recent letter on pronunciation of scientific names (Brit. Birds 102: 25­28), and assumed that it was written by M. Python. However, joking aside, there is an important issue here, about which I have been intending to write to BB for some months. In terms of pronunciation, it is of course futile to even contemplate a `correct pronunciation’ since scientific names are not Latin names. They are based largely, though not entirely, on Latin. And the Latin on which they are based is not classical Latin. It probably has more affinity with medieval church Latin or even botanical Latin, both of which are recognised as distinct. To suggest that there is a `correct’ way of pronouncing Latin is like

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