Pronunciation--scientists vs. Greek and Latin (15 rounds)

Aren't botanical names fun?  Since they are an interesting mix of Greek,
Latin, and proper names from around the world, there are no universal rules
for pronouncing this stuff.  There aren't even universal rules for
pronouncing the Greek and Latin, I'm afraid.  It's often said that Linnaeus
et al. used Latin and Greek because these were "universal languages" known
to all scholars (at the time).  This may have been more or less true for
the written languages, but even then there were sharp regional differences
in pronunciation of these languages.

If you want a guide to guessing a reasonable pronunciation, I suggest
trying to find a cheap used Latin textbook and look at the introductory
chapter on pronunciation.  It's simple.  Better yet, take Greek or Latin,
and help employ deserving classicists like me!

There are some great moments in scientific Greek and Latin buried in our
technical terminology.  But then it's easy to blame the poor scientists;
the happy Romans did the same thing with some Greek terms.  My favorite
example is the word "toxic."  The Greek for arrow poison was "toxikon
pharmakon"--"toxikon" is archery (or arrow), and "pharmakon" is "poison."
So, of course, when the Romans wanted a word for poison, they chose
"toxikon."  Oops.

  --Martin Harriman
    martin-h at mail_utexas.edu