Monday, 12 July 2021

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This is Carl Linnaeus, the famous Swedish naturalist and taxonomist, who invented the binomial system of naming organisms we still use today (eg 'homo sapiens' or 'rattus rattus')

He seems a genial, easy-going sort of chap, doesn't he? 

Well, now. In 1756, Linnaeus fell out with one of his protégés, Daniel Rolander, who refused to show him some plant samples from his expedition to Suriname, which Linnaeus felt he had a right to see. 

In response, Linnaeus... broke into Rolander's rooms (or possibly just barged in, it's not clear, but entered by force at any rate) and stole the samples. 

Then, he used his influence to black-ball Rolander from any further appointments at Stockholm University, essentially wrecking his career. 

And then... he found a tiny, ground-dwelling bug - this one, in fact -
...and gave it the scientific name 'Aphanus Rolandri', or 'Ignoble Rolander'. 

What I'm saying is... do not cross Carl Linnaeus.  Carl Linnaeus is not messing about.


slepkane said...

Still couldn't decide what to call a roadrunner though, could he!

Julia said...

When you read about Linnaeus, did you by any chance stumble upon Johann Georg Siegesbeck? Siegesbeck strongly disagreed with Linnés classification system based on sexual attributes as well as the scandalously explicit language Linné used in his books (and it actually is rather, well, blunt - especially for the time). So Siegesbeck openly disputed Linnaeus and used his position in St. Petersburg to withhold plant delieveries from Russia and Sibiria in order to impede his progress.

Linneaus on the other hand named a plant after Siegesbeck, Sigesbeckia serrata, a little prickly weed with extremely sticky seedcases. Seedcases that stick everywhere and annoy the hell out of you, since they are almost impossible to get rid of.

So petty revenge seems to have been quite a specialty of Linnaeus. But then again, when coming up with a new and groundbreaking nomenclature, maybe a lot of us would take the chance to take a dig or two ...

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If you were to cross Linnaeus, what would you cross him with? And how would you name the result?

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Laura said...

So I wanted to reply to a comment on Twitter but I don't have Twitter so I'm writing it here.
Re: the same line used in 'Fitton' and 'Limerick'. Now, I know it was an accident and I know you're irked by it... but it does make perfect sense that two people in such close quarters would have the same conversation twice, if not more than twice. It actually works really well in the context of Cabin Pressure.
My friend and I have had EXACTLY the same conversation at least three times about the naming of toasted sandwiches in New South Wales versus Victoria. There are very few regional dialectal differences across Australia, but those that exist are VERY important. The correct term BTW is Jaffle, if it comes out of a Jaffle-iron. If it comes out of a cafe-style press, it's just a boring toasted sandwich. In South Australia they're called toastie-toasties which is just plain wrong

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My favourite story nomenclatural origin comes from my own family. Tom Bowman was the Curator of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. He co-discovered a genus of aquatic isopods and got to name it. He wanted it to have a mysterious, esoteric name, but he also wanted to name it after his wife, my Great Aunt Mary Jo. He named it the Joryma.

Laura said...

Because I used 'so' twice in the first sentence? Indeed. I did edit before posting but that one got away from me. I hope you can forgive me.

I am now going to look up the Joryma genus of aquatic isopods

Anonymous said...

Yes, Laura. I really wonder what made you want to put that first "so" there in the first place? Richard Madely was on the radio the other day complaining about people who do this and it was said that it's a sort of holding strategy which gives the speaker time to think what exactly they're going to say. That can only ever possibly apply to the spoken word, so please enlighten us as to the purpose of writing it?


Laura said...

Ooo, a true pedant in the wild :)
I could say it's because I often completely rearrange longer comments before posting them, and the superfluous 'so' ended up orphaned at the beginning of the sentence.
Or I could say it's a rhetorical thing intended to sound chatty and approachable, just like the 'now' in the second line.
But I'm going to say it's because I'm a linguist and as such I'm a descriptivist not a prescriptivist.

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