Fixing terminology

Bill Purves purves at TURING.CS.HMC.EDU
Mon Apr 21 13:44:36 EST 1997

On this matter of terminological advance, such as "dark reactions"
(from the Dark Ages ;-)

At 10:54 AM 4/21/97 -0700, Ross Koning wrote:

>That one example doesn't work for the rest of the mess as
>well, because there isn't a huge source of money focused
>on one small aspect of plant physiology anywhere else.
>This leaves us to the only place where money can talk,
>or at least whisper, and that is in textbook publishing.
>As reviewers of book chapters, we need to make sure that
>intro bio, botany, and plant physiology texts start making
>the transition to clearer, more descriptive, and accurate
>language.  At first we may have to accept dual language
>to appease die-hards such as your colleague.  In subsequent
>editions the old misconceptions move into parentheses,
>then maybe into footnotes or endnotes.  Finally they can go
>into the oblivion they richly deserve.

Speaking with my textbook-authorial hat on, I agree with Ross.
REVIEWERS can help a lot by picking up on old-fashioned terminology
as they find it.  Another thing that can help, odd as it may seem,
is for faculty members to hand lists of such things to sales reps
as they come through.

Why? Because there is often a perception within publishing houses
that certain terms are not only still in widespread use but still
DESIRED by significant parts of the market.  The publishers do
try to find out what people want, and they hire folks who are supposed
to know what will happen if an author introduces a change.  So here
I sit, nearly done writing the fifth edition of my book, with my
(very good, new) developmental editor assuring me that we will be
in deep stuff if I don't make SOME use of the terms "light reactions"
and "dark reactions."  The publishers try very hard to give "the
market" what faculty want, so it helps authors and publishers when
faculty speak up, typically through sales reps (or with notes in
response to those flashy mailers you are all swamped with).

By the way, I will of course pass a comment about this particular
discussion straight to both of the publishers of my book--but I
know that PART of the response I get is likely to be on the order
of "...but those folks are the committed, teaching-active, up-to-
date botanists, and we believe there are still many less alert folks
out there who will be upset if we don't continue to talk about light
reactions and dark reactions..."

Forgive me for my usual verbosity...


William K. Purves              phone: 909.626.4859
2817 N. Mountain Avenue   voice mail: 909.621.8021
Claremont, CA 91711-1550         fax: 909.626.7030
USA                    e-mail: Bill_Purves at

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