Fixing terminology

Bob Vickery vickery at JOLT.MPX.COM.AU
Wed Apr 23 19:47:27 EST 1997

David D. Brown wrote:

>The value of this thread would be enhanced by a list to include the problem
>word, the rationale for its replacement, and on the same line, the suggested
>alternatives. It would be more convincing, easier to think about, and prompt
>readership participation. Many minds can evaluate better than one or two.
>A possible model:
>replacement             obsolete                        rationale
>syngamy                 fertilization                   confusion with eutrophy
>egg                         fertile egg                    confusion with
>CO2 fixing              dark reactions              ETS?? not clear by Koning
>                              lignt independent
>What do you think? What other words, lists, do you have?

This is an excellent suggestion.
My big problem in teaching biological words is not that they are wrong, but
that there are too many of them.  Many of the words in text books and
floras are, IMHO, unnecessary for students and unnecessary for a good
understanding of biology. For experts they may make a usefull shorthand and
add precision to specialised descriptions,but they should not be taught in
schools or undergraduate courses.
The words I dislike most are Latin translations of perfectly good English
expressions.  They originate more from intellectual vanity than didactic
necessity. Germanic biologists do not go on with this nonsense.  It seems
to be a disease of the anglophones and, perhaps, the francophones.

I couldn't help noticing that a newly fertilized bird's egg is a zygote
which is a yoke.

I append a few of my least favourite examples.

Proposed Term               Old Term     Rationale
belly                       venter       unneccessary classicism
spore bearing tissue        nucellus     = endosperm (French) confusing
embryonic food store        endosperm    = albumen (French) confusing
ovule coat                  integument   unneccessary classicism
female parts                gynoecium    unneccessary classicism
male parts                  androecium   unneccessary classicism
flower stalk                pedicel      unneccessary classicism
inflorescence stalk         peduncle     unneccessary classicism
outer layer of fruit wall   epicarp      unneccessary classicism
middle layer of fruit wall  mesocarp     unneccessary classicism
inner layer of fruit wall   endocarp     unneccessary classicism
cell membrane               plasmalemma  unneccessary classicism
vacuolar membrane           tonoplast    unneccessary classicism

Bob Vickery
bob at
vickery at

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