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The Naming of the Shrew A Curious History of Latin Names by John Wright

The Naming of the Shrew A Curious History of Latin Names

The Real World   

Sue Baker's view...

The natural world including ourselves, homo sapiens all have latin names to classify us on the Tree of Life. But, what do these terms and labels mean, and why are some so bizarre or occasionally so beautiful, my favourite being Vanessa Atalanta for the Red Admiral butterfly. John Wright is here to explain and elucidate in this illuminating guide to scientific classification.

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Who is Sue Baker

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. Linnaeus’s naming system for the natural world was a huge breakthrough because it put things in order; ‘not necessarily the right order’, as John Wright comments in this deeply fascinating study, ‘but sometimes the wrong order is better than nothing’. Wright tours the history of taxonomy, bringing to life its major personalities, Linnaeus chief amongst them, as well as the enthusiasts responsible for naming new species today. He explains why Latin names are important and illustrates the confusion that can arise from using ‘common names’, demonstrating the brilliance of the binomial principle, whereby each living thing has a family name and a species name. Not only botanists and zoologists but also linguists and etymologists will thoroughly enjoy this quirky, intelligent and unexpectedly funny tome, discovering the wonderful descriptive power of such as Notiocryptorrhynchus (a beetle with a mark hidden on its nose) and micropachycephalosaurus (a lizard with a thick tiny head).
~ Victoria Bentata


The Naming of the Shrew A Curious History of Latin Names by John Wright

Latin names - frequently unpronounceable, all too often wrong and always a tiny puzzle to unravel - have been annoying the layman since they first became formalised as scientific terms in the eighteenth century. Why on earth has the entirely land-loving Eastern Mole been named Scalopus aquaticus, or the Oxford Ragwort been called Senecio squalidus - 'dirty old man'? What were naturalists thinking when they called a beetle Agra katewinsletae, a genus of fish Batman, and a Trilobite Han solo? Why is zoology replete with names such as Chloris chloris chloris (the greenfinch), and Gorilla gorilla gorilla (a species of, well gorilla)? The Naming of the Shrew will unveil these mysteries, exploring the history, celebrating their poetic nature and revealing how naturalists sometimes get things so terribly wrong. With wonderfully witty style and captivating narrative, this book will make you see Latin names in a whole new light.

About the Author

John Wright is a passionate natural historian and the author of the River Cottage Handbooks Mushrooms, Edible Seashore, Hedgerow and Booze. As well as writing for national publications, he often appears on the River Cottage series for Channel 4. He gives lectures on natural history and every year he takes around fifty 'forays' showing people how to collect food - plants from the hedgerow, seaweeds and shellfish from the shore and mushrooms from pasture and wood. Over a period of twenty years he has taken around five hundred such forays. Fungi are his greatest passion and he has thirty-five years' experience in studying them. John Wright is a member of the British Mycological Society and a Fellow of the Linnaean Society. He lives in rural West Dorset with his wife and two teenage daughters. @johnmushroom /

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Book Info

Publication date

30th November 1999


John Wright

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