Suggestion: Tag or Sub- tag for Scientific names

ietf-languages at ietf-languages at
Sat Feb 1 15:15:34 CET 2003


    Name of requester          : Andy Mabbett

    E-mail address of requester: andy at

    Tag to be registered       : SC (or possibly "LA-sci")

    English name of language   :

                 Scientific names (aka "Latin names") of living things
                 ("Scientific Latin")

    Native name of language (transcribed into ASCII): n/a

    Reference to published description of the language (book or article):

         There is no single published description of this "pseudo
         language". However, the following small sample of the available
         literature may be of use:

                 The Christian Science Monitor "What's in a scientific
                 name? Maybe your own."


                 Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature


                 A Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names.
                 Kastner, J.
                 Oxford University Press. 1986.

                 The Dictionary of American Bird Names.
                 Choate, Ernest A. Revised by R. A. Paynter, Jr.
                 Harvard Common Press. 1985

                 CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names: Common Names,
                 Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology
                 Umberto Quattrocchi
                 CRC Press  November 1999

                 Elsevier's Dictionary of Plant Names in Latin,
                 English, French, German and Italian
                 M Wrobel and G Creber
                 Elsevier  1996

                 The Scientific Names of the British Lepidoptera - Their
                 History and Meaning
                 A. Maitland
                 Harley Books 1991

                 Plus the many websites listed at:


                 and titles listed at:


    Any other relevant information:

                 There is currently no language tag to denote the use of
                 the scientific names (often erroneously called "Latin
                 names") of living things, such as plants and animals
                 (e.g. Homo sapiens). While such names are often composed
                 of, or derived from, Latin terms, they can also be
                 created from "Latinised" words taken from other
                 languages, including Greek, English & other Western
                 languages, languages local to the habitat of the plant
                 or creature described, place names, word- play, family
                 names and even words invented for fiction (e.g.
                 characters in Tolkien or Star Trek).

                 For example:

                         Brachypelma albopilosum
                                 (Brachypelma, from the Greek)

                         Ekgmowechashala philotae
                                 (the North American Lakota language)

                         Uluops uluops
                                 (from "ulu", an Eskimo knife)

                         Linnaea borealis
                                 (in honour of Linneaus)

                         Ardeola grayii
                                 (in honour of John Edward Gray, a

                         Nepenthes sumatrana
                                 (from the place name "Sumatra")

                         Phyllidia polkadotsa

                         Draculoides bramstokeri
                                 (in honour of the character Dracula and
                                 its author, Bram Stoker)

                         Calponea harrisonfordi
                                 (in honour of Harrison Ford, the actor)

                         Ba humbugi
                                 (a quote from Dickens' 'A Christmas

                         Ytu brutus
                                 (a quote from Shakespeare, "Et U,

                         Polemistus chewbacca
                                 (a character from the film 'Star Wars')

                         Crex crex

                         Phthiria relativitae
                                 (a play on "The Theory of Relativity")

                         Abra cadabra
                                 (a magical pun)

                         Orizabus subaziro
                                 (a palindrome)

                         Agra vation
                                 (a play on "aggravation")

                         Bombylius aureocookae
                                 (a play on "oreo cookie")

                         Heerz lukenatcha
                                 (a play on "here's looking at you")

                         Cyclocephala nodanotherwon
                                 (a play on "not another one")

                         Zyzzyx chilensis

                 The use of the tag "LA" for Latin, while it may act as a
                 useful guide for pronunciation in some cases, is clearly
                 inappropriate for many such names, which will not occur
                 in regular Latin dictionaries.

                 I propose a tag for such names (which commonly occur in
                 the midst of prose written in another language), or,
                 alternatively, a sub- tag of the "LA" tag.

                 The tag will allow clients to be aware that they should
                 NOT translate Scientific names when translating the text
                 of a document in which they are included; Homo sapiens
                 is Homo sapiens in French, German, English or Serbo-

                 There is convention to abbreviate second occurrences of
                 such names:



                         "Homo sapiens has a bigger brain that H.

                 and that the proposed tag (or sub-tag) will potentially
                 allow the second such occurrence to be pronounced in
                 full by speech synthesis software, as it would be in
                 normal speech:

                         "Homo sapiens has a bigger brain that Homo

                 Scientific names are conventionally rendered, on paper
                 or screen, in italics (or sometimes underlined) <ibid.>;
                 a unique tag will potentially allow rendering to be
                 facilitated automatically by clients (or via style
                 sheets in HTML and other mark- up schema).

                 I am grateful to Harald Tveit Alvestrand for his
                 response to my initial suggestion.

                 I have been advised that an "asbestos proof" suit might
                 be needed; as a newcomer to this system, I trust that
                 this will not be the case; I will gladly submit a
                 revised proposal, in the light of guidance from friends
                 more learned and familiar with the procedure than I.
                 Comments from zoologists, botanists or taxonomists would
                 also be welcome.
Andy Mabbett

Birmingham, UK
andy at

Andy Mabbett

Birmingham, UK
andy at

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