Beware of the dog

John Clews Scripts2 at
Thu Feb 6 08:51:24 CET 2003

Peter_Constable at writes:
Re: Suggestion: Tag or Sub- tag for Scientific names

> > For instance, in speech synthesis, there is probably some
> > acceptable range of pronunciations used by Russian biologists for
> > some plant name (or perhaps standard Latin pronunciations are
> > acceptable to any audience) [...]

John Cowan  <cowan at> replied:

> Definitely not.  Pronouncing "Canis" in any other way than [kejnIs] to
> an anglophone biologist will get nothing but a bewildered stare.  In
> biology as in law, the English (i.e. 15th century vowel shifted)
> pronunciations are the living ones.

Actually, not so. An Anglophone biologist could give you a bewildered
stare if you used [kejnIs], if my grasp of phonetics is correct.

There's a big difference between a natural US-English pronunciation
for loan words, and a natural GB-English pronunciation for loan
words, which you haven't allowed for.

I'm possibly using the wrong terminology, but many vowels are
lengthened and changed in American English, where as I don't think
those vowels changed in British English, or at least not to the same

Many people won't be familiar with IPA notation, or ASCII-ized IPA
notation as above (I'm not) but I'm guessing that [-ej-] above is
like "a" in "plate." Most British people would expect to see Canis
pronounced like in the name Janice.

On a wider front, there's a definite "long vowel shift" that's
happened mainly on one side of the Atlantic, which may also have
come into play in the "a" sound above.

For instance, in the current climate, the way that "Iraq" is
pronounced by US commentators tends to grate with many UK people
(and other people) who are more used to to the way it is pronounced
in the UK (i.e. many US TV commentators often talk about "Eye-Rack"
in effect (as in Tie-Rack) while in the UK (and in many places
elsewhere, including I suspect Iraq) the "I" in Iraq is pronounced
like the "i" in "pin."

It also took a long while for it to dawn on many people in the UK
that the name Colin in Colin Powell ("o" as in "toe") was the same
name as Colin which is still a reasonably frequent name in the UK
("o" as in "top").

So in terms of "Canis" - Cave Canum!

Best regards

John Clews
John Clews,
Director and Editor
Keytempo directory of musicians
Keytempo Limited (Information Management),
8 Avenue Rd, Harrogate, HG2 7PG, United Kingdom.
Tel:    01423 888 432  (mobile: 07766 711 395)
Email:  Scripts2 at

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