Richard A. Lockshin lockshin at mindspring.com
Thu Mar 6 18:38:11 EST 1997

lockshin at mindspring.com (Richard A. Lockshin) wrote:

>iayork at panix.com (Ian A. York) wrote:

>>In article <nna-0603971103550001 at news>, A.J.Cann <nna at le.ac.uk> wrote:
>>>So how do you pronounce apoptosis?  Is it:

>>The word derives from the greek roots "apo" and "ptosis".  ("Apo" meaning
>>away from, and "ptosis" means fall, or droop.  The word originally was
>>coined with the annual falling of the leaves in mind, as an example of
>>programmed cell death, although I think it's now known that this actually
>>isn't a case of classic apoptosis.)

>>The "p" in "ptosis" is silent--compare "pterodactyl", for example--and the
>>original suggestion was that therefore the second "p" in "apoptosis"
>>should be silent: "apo-tosis".  I believe that the guy who coined the word
>>(Andrew Wiley, I think?  -Or perhaps Wiley in cooperation with a classics
>>professor at Cambridge)  pronounces it without the "p".  There are a
>>number of examples which support this pronunciation, and it's the way I
>>personally pronouce it.  Another advantage of the silent "p" is the snob
>>appeal, of course; it shows you're a thoughtful and literate scientist
>>who is deeply concerned about the important things in life, like classical

>>Over the last couple of years, though, there has been a mild controversy
>>on this in the letters column of Nature, and unfortunately for the
>>silent-p theory, one of the letters to Nature pointed out that the word
>>"helicopter", by that reasoning, should be pronounced "helico-ter", since
>>of course the "pter" is derived from the greek for wing, which has a
>>silent "p".  I find this a pretty convincing argument, and have stopped
>>sneering as much when I hear the "apop-tosis"  pronunciation--but I'm
>>still sticking with the silent "p". 

>>I also had a mild discussion on the pronunciation of the word with Brian
>>Leber, at McMaster University, who firmly put me in my place by observing
>>that the pronunciation depended on whether you were using New or Old
>>Classic Greek.  I nodded thoughtfully, stroked my chin, and scurried away
>>as soon as possible.  I'm still not quite sure if he was bluffing or not. 

>>      Ian York   (iayork at panix.com)  <http://www.panix.com/~iayork/>
>>      "-but as he was a York, I am rather inclined to suppose him a
>>       very respectable Man." -Jane Austen, The History of England
>Andrew Wyllie pronounces it apo--tosis.  Currie was, I gather, the
>Greek scholar in the Kerr, Wyllie, Currie article. North Americans
>tend to say ap-op'-tosis.  The new/old classic Greek argument tends to
>relate to whether you ask classicists (apo-tosis) or ask native Greeks
>(who tend to favor a-pop'-tosis in a very limited survey).
>Richard A. Lockshin
>(lockshin at mindspring.com;lockshin at sjumusic.stjohns.edu)
>check out Cell Death Soc web page: 

Fair enough. I had just come back on, with some chagrin, to note that
John Kerr, an Australian, pronounces it (by my ear) with a long "A"
(as in "weigh")--A-po'-tosis.  I understand that Currie died a while

Richard A. Lockshin
(lockshin at mindspring.com;lockshin at sjumusic.stjohns.edu)
check out Cell Death Soc web page: 

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