Martin Gibbons, c/o The Palm Centre
A lady came into the Palm Centre last week. She was
looking for a particular palm for her husband but, she said, she
couldn't pronounce the name 'because it was Latin'. A lot of people
have a problem with this, not because Latin is difficult to pronounce
but because they believe it to be. They see it as a foreign language
and as such, they are frightened of it. I thought a few ground rules
might help because, believe it or not, everyone can speak Latin,
or at least, pronounce Latin names.
For a start, there are very few conventions in Latin.
There are very few rules, and no 'accents'. It hasn't been spoken
as a language for many hundreds of years, such a long time that
in fact nobody knows the 'correct' way to pronounce it. Thus it
could be argued that your particular pronunciation is as valid as
anyone else's. If you want to pronounce 'Sabal' as 'Sable' or 'S'bal'
or 'Saybal' there is absolutely nobody who has the right to tell
you that you're wrong, because nobody really knows.
Gaining confidence already? Then consider this:
while French has its á, its é, its è, and its
ç, while German has its ä, ß and ö, and while
Swedish has its ø, å and ö, Latin has no such
refinements, so there are no pitfalls, and nobody can criticise
you because you don't know the difference between an ä and
an å, because in Latin, they don't exist. Just say the words
as they look and you can't go far wrong, because there IS no wrong!
There are a very few ground rules: one is that 'ch' is generally
pronounced with a bard sound as though it were 'k', (thus 'Kamaerops',
'Kamaedorea', 'Kuniophoenix' etc.,) unless the name is derived from
French rather than Latin, in which case it is a soft 'sh' sound,
thus 'Shambeyronia' which was named after a Monsieur Chambeyron,
a French botanist. Beyond that there ain't much to know.
Let's take a few examples. Can you really say you
can't pronounce 'Livistona'? Surely not! But a lot of people would
rather stick with 'Chinese Fan palm' rather than take a chance.
Try breaking the word down and you have three simple syllables:
'Liv'; 'is' and 'tonia'. Run them together and you are there! What
could be easier? Even daunting names like the wonderful Johannesteijsmannia
can be broken down in this way. Divide and rule! You can surely
pronounce 'Johannes', just think of Johannes Brahms. 'Mannia' is
straightforward enough too, it's just the bit in the middle that
may confuse. Just say 'tays' and you're there: run the three together
'Johannes-tays-mannia', and you will be understood, at least by
other palm folks, whether you are in Iceland or well Tasmania (not
to be confused with Tays mannia of course).
Why do we have to bother with these Latin names at
all? I am frequently asked For one sim ple reason you may think
it s confusing but it s not half as confusing as common names when
you think about it. Names such as Fan palm even Australian Fan palm
or Cane palm or Bamboo palm or many other common names all refer
to many different species if not in Europe then be yond There are
a dozen Cane palms but there is only one Chamaedorea seifrizii There
are bun dreds of Fan palms but there is only one Livis tona australis
and as suggested above that will hold good wherever you are in the
world, and whoever you are talking to.
Palm names are based on the Binomial (twoname) system,
as are our own names, except they are round the other way, with
family (actually 'genus') name first rather than last. Thus you
could say that Trachycarpus fortunei equates to 'John Smith'. All
the others in the genus keep the same 'surname' (Trachycarpus) but
have different 'given' names: takil, martianus, nanus etc., in the
same way that John Smith's brothers and sisters keep the same family
name, Smith, but have individual given names. This is important
because it shows and recognizes the link between family members,
but allows them to be individuals too.
So that's the end of the lesson Don t be fright ened
of scientific names they re really quite easy and quite harmless
Sit down quietly with a palm book on y our own one time and have
a little prac tise You'll find that with a little effort you'll
soon be spouting Latin names with the best of them, and you'll enjoy
the new precision.
And just think how useful it will be when you visit
Latin America!! M.G.
27-09-21 - 21:38GMT
|| What's New?
|| New palm book
| Date: 24-05-2004
of Cultivated Palms
by Robert Lee Riffle, Paul Craft.
|| New: Issue 48
| Date: 24-05-2004
has been published in the Members Area.
|| Archive complete!
| Date: 03-12-2002
| All Chamaerops issues can now be found in the archive:
More than 350 articles are on-line!
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| Date: 28-08-2002
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|| 42 as free pdf-file
| Date: 05-08-2002
Download! Chamaerops No. 42 can be downloaded for free to intruduce the new layout and size to
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|| Book List
| Date: 28-05-2001
a look at our brand new Book List edited by Carolyn Strudwick
|| New Book
| Date: 25-01-2001
by Mario Stähler
This german book tells you all about how to cultivate your palms in Central Europe. more...