« VorigeDoorgaan »
Geology can only be studied thus by those who are gifted with leisure and affluence, or by those who follow it as a profession; but, on a less extended scale, it is available to the man of business and the man of humble income. The rich and the unemployed will find in it a substitute for those artificial excitements, those frivolous, and often vitiating and ruinous pursuits to which they are driven as a resource against ennui, and he who is engaged in active pursuits, may resort to it as a relaxation from toil and ease. If a state of total inactivity is unsuitable for man, so likewise is a state of unremitting labour. Rest and recreation we all require: change of employment is often equal to repose; and where can we find employment or recreation so refreshing and invigorating, both to mind and body, as this? What can be more delightful than to exchange that conflict of passions and interests, which beset the man of business in his intercourse with men, for that calm, yet exciting interest, arising from converse with nature, and the acquirement or discovery of truth?
Geology has fields of research suited to every labourer, and to every capacity. On some of its investigations, the highest intellectual powers, and the greatest acquirements in abstract science, may be brought to bear, while many of its problems may be solved by any one who has eyes and will make use of them. Extensive travel is requisite to afford comprehensive views of the structure of the earth, and to prevent our generalizing from too limited an induction; but he whose travels are confined within his native country, or within a circle of twenty miles round his own house, may add much to our knowledge. Nor is this class of observers by any means the least useful. He who makes a hasty excursion into a district, can give but a general outline of its structure, leaving many important points of detail to be filled up by resident observers. If we visit the same cliff or the same quarry daily, for years, we shall, at every visit, be rewarded with something new; and there are few districts barren in objects of geological interest, however deficient they may be in the beauties of picturesque scenery.
ON THE USE OF TERMS FROM THE GREEK AND LATIN
LANGUAGES IN SCIENTIFIC NOMENCLATURE.
THERE exists, at present, a strong desire to dispense, as much as possible, with terms and names in science taken from the Greek and Latin languages: it is alleged that by so doing, the attainment of knowledge will be facilitated to those who have not the advantage of a classical education; and that science, being divested of what bears the appearance of an ostentatious display of learning, will present herself in attractive guise, and secure a greater number of admirers. It is also considered as a national reflection that we should, in any case, have recourse to other languages, when our own is so copious and expressive. We are frequently reminded in a lame metaphor of that “ well of pure and undefiled English,” from which our ancestors drew—not water-but
words, till the example of a master-mind, towards the close of the last century, caused an influx into our vocabulary of Latin, to the exclusion of genuine Celtic or Teutonic.
This is not the place for any discussion on the last allegation, which would properly pertain to a philological journal, or to one devoted to general literature, rather than to science; nor should we have mentioned it, if we did not conceive that it is presumed, the advantages which would result from the banishment of these exotics, and the restitution of their hardier predecessors would be equally felt in the language of science, as in that of literature. We cannot, however, refrain from observing, that our language is essentially a mixed one, and that even if we were to purify it of all the latinity which has been introduced into it since the period alluded to, there would still remain a great leaven, which had been incorporated in the form of Norman French, and that the
pure well” was but a turbid compound of different Celtic dialects, with a large proportion of that of ancient Italy.
Leaving, however, this consideration, we wish to point out the proper bounds to the proposed reformation, and though we fully concur in the desirableness of divesting science of all extrinsic difficulties, we feel persuaded that this method of so doing eventually tends to produce a worse evil than that we would obviate; and that while we endeavour to shun what may appear as pedantry, we shall, if not timely warned, fall into the more dangerous errors of inelegance and inaccuracy.
Some persons have proposed, as a part of the plan of restoration, to extend the privilege of retaining the Latin or Greek root of a scientific term, only giving it an English termination, and forming nouns as we have always been in the habit of forming adjectives. Thus, since custom has sanctioned the use of such terms as vertebrated, or molluscous animal, exogenous plant, &c., they would adopt mammals, cephalopods, mollusks, exogens, bracts, &c.
But as these terms have neither euphony nor elegance to recommend them, it should be distinctly shown that they possess some decided advantages: intelligibility to the unlearned is certainly not among these; for unless the meaning of the root be understood, the vernacular termination will be of no avail, and such jargon as edentate or rodent mammal, acephalous testacean, glumaceous endogen, foc., is in no way preferable to the analogous designations with their proper endings.
It is the deficiencies of our own language that necessitate the adoption of foreign words, to furnish names for newly-discovered natural laws, principles, or bodies, inorganic or organic, or for instruments newly contrived to aid us in our researches. The character of the languages derived from the Celtic or Teutonic, is to possess but comparatively few roots, and to allow of an indefinite number of combinations of these to express compourd ideas. But however forcible and expressive association may render these compounds, their being such is obviously a source of ambiguity, and prejudicial to the precision and brevity so desirable in everything connected with science; for, in the arithmetic of language, the shortest word is not always that which consists of the fewest syllables; and, in fact, the learned name is, in most instances, absolutely shorter than any equivalent English compound term.
If weather-glass be employed instead of barometer, we may gain a syllable, but at what a cost! And if we translate the word by weightmeasurer, there is no gain whatever. What vernacular terms could be found to express oxygen, chlorine, hydrogen, &c. ? and still less the significant compounds hydrochloric, hydrocyanic, protoxide, deutoxide, &c.
There is no ground for apprehension that any undue number of foreign words will be introduced, because there is no inducement but necessity to employ them; all languages were formed, and even matured, in the infancy of science of every kind, all, therefore, must be extended as new ideas are acquired, or new objects require naming. Viewed with regard to these wants of science, ours is a barbarous and impracticable language, and does not admit of the formation of brief and efficient compounds; and if we were to insist on the adoption of native, to the exclusion of foreign terms, knowledge would receive a check which would be nearly fatal to its progress. The communication of knowledge depends on the right use of correct definitions or descriptions, which ought to be as brief as is compatible with precision and accuracy; no word employed, should, if possible, be ambiguous, or have more than one signification, but the principal roots of any language, from their early and constant use, have become associated with many trains of ideas, which being inevitably excited when the word occurs, its use is incompatible with the singleness of meaning which is requisite to a good description *.
The first essential step the student must take, especially in natural history, is the attainment of a correct conception of the principles of classification, without which he can only acquire isolated facts, burdensome to his memory. He must understand the nature of genera and species, and be impressed with the incalculable advantage, in point of
* It will not be useless to give a few “ to the Celandine," and by his deexamples, taken at random, of the ambi- scription, it is clear he did not mean the guity which would arise from the use of celandine (chelidonium), but the pile-wort trivial names, which were given before (ranunculus ficaria). We need hardly science had pointed out the affinities of say that we are far from proposing to natural objects. The name violet is well banish from fiction those popular names adapted for a generic term, but it has been met with in the greatest works of genius, given in two or three instances to plants but merely to point out a striking case which have not the slightest affinity with of error, arising from the use of trivial a true violet, as the Calathian violet (Gentiana pneumonanthe), the dogs’-tooth violet Captain Back, in compliance with popu(Erythronium dens canis), &c. The term lar usage, says in his narrative, “several Nightshade is given to two distinct genera, mice were seen to-day,” and immediately and this is the case in innumerable in- explains that the animals were lemmings. stances. There are between thirty and When housewives and farmers only forty plants designated by names com- thought of depredations on their bacon, pounded of the celtic root wort, as star- cheese, and corn, they called all animals wort, mad-wort, spleen-wort, spider-wort, guilty of these malpractices, rats, and &c. &c.; and in several cases there are mice, and sparrows; but what should we three or more plants to which one of these gain by endeavouring to frustrate the lanames is given, with some other distin- bours of naturalists, who, on careful comguishing term, though the plants have no parison, have instituted the genera, Arvireal connexion; thus we have Star-wort cola, Spermophilus, Emberiza, &c., by (Aster), Water Star-wort (Callitriche). again confounding them under the name Now, is it not obvious that, if these names of mice and sparrows; or would the verwere retained, the mind would naturally nacular terms, field-haunters, seed-lovers, associate the plants, from the similarity in as literally translating the new generic their appellations ?
terms, be advisable, either for brevity or A living poet has written some beautiful | euphony?
brevity of definition, afforded by the combination of the generic and specific name to designate a natural object; this combined name being in fact a memoria technica, to remind him of certain properties and qualities of the individual, as the more comprehensive collections of genera into orders and classes are the means by which he is reminded of their mutual relations. It is of course of little importance what words may be employed for this purpose, but they should be euphonous and easily pronounced, and there should be some consistent plan in their adoption: if the advantages of employing the generic and specific name be admitted, the more precise and distinct these are, the better. To substitute three or more separate words, where two are sufficient, would be anything but desirable; and this would be the case in a majority of instances, if an endeavour were made to dispense with Latin or Greek names.
When a knowledge of even the elements of science was by no means common, it was possible for a person to acquire the reputation of learning, by a pedantic use of hard words, as they are facetiously termed by those who do not, as well as by those who really do, understand them. The ridicule so justly excited by this practice, made all true philosophers anxious to remedy an abuse which might be prejudicial to the diffusion of sound knowledge, for some of the ridicule was intentionally transferred to science herself by those who at all times are interested in preventing their fellow-creatures from becoming wiser or better. But now, when the elements of science form part of general education, and when considerable knowledge is no rare endowment, the pedantry alluded to is seldom had recourse to, and the same cause for proscribing terms borrowed from the learned languages no longer exists, while the advantages derived from their use, as convenient symbols in classification, at least, become daily more apparent. Floriculture and shell-collecting having, for very
sufficient reasons, been always popular amusements, the use of Latin and Greek names in the branches of natural history with which these pursuits are connected, has more especially excited animadversion, from the cause above alluded to; but if the scientific names be invariably employed, their use will cease to excite surprise, this is gradually becoming the practice, from a perception of the unfitness of trivial names to meet the wants of even a slight knowledge; and we are endeavouring to prove that this habitual use of the scientific name should be inculcated by all who are aware of the importance of correct views of the complicated relations existing among organic beings.
Why, at the present day, should a person desirous of studying botany rationally, be exhorted to use the term evening-primrose tribe instead of Onagrariæ? It is true he would use this last word merely as a symbol, which might recall to his mind certain properties, and of the derivation of which he might be ignorant; but the employment of the other would demand an extra effort of attention to divest it of its false and primary meaning, the order in question having nothing to do with a primrose, and the name evening primrose is identified with only one genus which is already far more commonly known by its correct appellation Enothera. Since it is impossible to discover or apply English names for the number of species and genera discovered in the present century alone,
it is surely by no means desirable that the naturalist should employ an English name for some orders or genera, or species, and Greek and Latin ones for the rest. Why not, for the sake of uniformity alone, habitually use the latter on all occasions, since the languages which furnish them are exhaustless in their stores, and have the additional recommendation of being universally understood.
If the advocates for vernacular names, admitting the necessity for consistency or uniformity, and the advantages last mentioned, should yet prefer the attempt to adopt English names in all cases, they would soon find the plan impracticable. Suppose, for instance, we were to adopt the trivial name Speedwell for the generic term instead of Veronica, though there would be no difficulty with such specific names as Virginian, Siberian, tall, lofly, hoary, &c., how are we to adopt concise and appropriate English synonyms for peregrina, decussata, crinita, crenulata, scutellata, &c.; we must either substitute an English termination for the Latin one, a practice, which as we have shown, has nothing to recommend it; or we must adopt some awkward periphrasis of several words, and when we have done this, as the idiom of the language requires the adjective to precede the noun, contrary to the principles of classification, which require the generic to precede the specific name; we must either violate this rule, or adopt such inversions as Speedwell panicled, Speedwell many-stalked, &c.
In the animal kingdom the same incongruities would arise, enhanced by the more powerful effects of early associations connected with names habitually used before classification was thought of; associations, too, usually repugnant to true science : thus the genus, Canis, would be divided as follows, Dog-dog, Dog-fox, Dog-wolf, Dog-hyæna, &c.
One inevitable result of improved knowledge of the relations of organic beings is the continual establishment of new genera, or the division of one into several ; if the Greek and Latin languages are employed to furnish appellations for these, we are enabled by their exhaustless fertility to adopt such as shall have a reference to the original group of species requiring re-arrangement, and the spirit of classification is preserved in the change. The science of conchology affords pregnant examples of what we allude to.
The genus, Venus, is now broken up into ten or a dozen intimately related to it, and yet absolutely requiring to be separated from it; how elegantly and how philosophically are the new generic names furnished by the goddess's Greek synonyms, Dione, Aphrodite, Astarte, Cytheren, Cyprina, &c. In what manner could we accomplish this in English?
When genera, intermediate to Cardium and Venus, were discriminated, how correctly and briefly did the factitious compounds, Venericardium, Isocardium, &c., express the new-found relations. Compare with these the absurd barbarous designations, stone-piercer, gaper, razor-sheath, top-shell, kneading-trough, ear-shell, barnacle, &c. &c.
hich are to be met with in popular works on conchology, and even in our national museum; and when English names are not used, foreign ones are adopted, which can possess no advantage over Latin or Greek appellations, such as Cowry instead of Cypræa.
It will be said that custom must determine after all in these