Monday, June 18, 2007

A word of the day

Like so many other resources that are lexical in nature, OmegaWiki has a word of the day. Our word of the day is not prepared in advance and we leave it to the community to create one. I am always relieved when there is actually a word of the day when I wake up.

Today's word of the day is interesting for many reasons. The word is wheat. There are several issues to consider.
  • It is marked as "English (United States)". There is however no "English (United Kingdom)" and as I cannot find this alternate, it should be just "English".
  • The definition has not been translated into English. This is very much optional, but it makes it so much easier to translate the definition in yet another language
  • In the definition, wheat is said to be part of the family ''Graminacee" of the genus "Triticum". According to Wikipedia the family should be "Poaceae".
The big thing here is that taxonomy while a science, is not exact. There is no such thing as a name that will be true for forever. With some regularity it is found that names need to be changed. These revisions may mean that species that are known to the public are no longer to be that species, they can be split up or lumped together.

The issue here is that without being able to reference to both families that are grassy, it is hard to appreciate this definition. This word of the day clearly shows why there is a need for a dictionary of life, a dictionary that explains all these names and shows the relations between the different validly published taxonomical names.



Jim Kingdon said...

Poaceae and Gramineae mean the same thing. So I don't really know OmegaWiki but I'm guessing this one would be easy.

The nasty case is where Cronquist and APG (or pick your favorite two classifications) classify things differently (recognize different families, put a given plant in different families, etc).

GerardM said...

There is a difference between the two from a taxanomical point of view. When you look at revisions there have been so many that it is not just about any two classifications. To understand a publication that is not taxonomical itself you still have to appreciate the revision used.