Language for taxonomic names, redux

Michael Everson everson at
Tue Feb 28 19:13:28 CET 2017

On 28 Feb 2017, at 17:57, Peter Constable <petercon at> wrote:
>> it should be clear already that Latin words are not English words
> But it is not clear whether words should be considered Latin or English words borrowed from Latin. E.g., several dictionaries (e.g., Merriam-Webster, Cambridge, Oxford) consider "homo sapiens" to be English.

The same might be said for “deja vu” and even “déjà vu”. Or “vis à vis”. Or “fiancée”. Or “viz” (which derives from “viꝫ” with a Latin abbreviation sign), or “Gestalt” or, well, lots of words. 

> I don't know of a clear basis for drawing a line between code switching for technical terminology (switch to Latin for taxonomic labels) or borrowings (these taxonomic labels have been in use in technical contexts for so long that they get taught without distinction from English-origin technical terms).

"Homo sapiens" may be considered a nativized English borrowing, but “Photinus pyralis” and "Camellia sinensis” are surely not. In this instance, as with “déjà vu”, it would be up to the tagger to choose whether to tag such a phrase or not. 

Michael Everson

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