Journal: News & Comment

Friday, April 12, 2002
# 10:09:00 PM:

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Sounds you wouldn't expect

Peter Ommundsen of Saltspring Island here in B.C. has created a Web site to help you pronounce all those nasty Latin names used in biology. Near the end of his useful guide is something quite neat:

An estimated pronunciation from the Golden Age of Rome (80-14 C.E.) is used for the reading of ancient literature. This pronunciation differs greatly from English scientific Latin, and is more difficult to master. For example, Cicero is "kickero," Caesar is "Kysar," vertebrae is "wertebrye," and Vaccinium is "wakkeeniom."

Those were certainly not the pronunciations I learned when I took Latin twenty years ago -- even though our textbooks told tales of the lives of families in ancient Rome.

By the way, my favourite Latin organism name lets my marine biology degree show. It's for the common green sea urchin: Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. It may be the longest Latin name of any living animal. Or maybe not.


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