You say dominula, I say dominulus

Meet the European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominulus.  Or is it Polistes dominula? Most biologists I know refer to this common Holarctic insect as P. dominulus, but I've just learned via Bugguide.net that the common spelling is a grammatical misunderstanding of the original latin:

So it's P. dominula.  Damn taxonomists.

photo details: Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon 20D

ISO 100, f/13, 1/250 sec, flash diffused through tracing paper

More like this

Robert Krulwich has a typically brilliant piece on Shakespeare, roses, gendered language and the latest version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Boroditsky proposes that because the word for "bridge" in German -- die brucke -- is a feminine noun, and the word for "bridge" in Spanish -- el puente --…
Yesterday I was listening to Morning Edition on NPR and caught this very intriguing segment, Shakespeare Had Roses All Wrong. Would you describe a bridge as fragile, elegant, beautiful, peaceful, slender, pretty? Or as strong, dangerous, long, sturdy, big, towering? Lera Boroditsky, an assistant…
Language Log details the results of this fascinating experiment. The researcher was looking at second language acquisition, and in order to have a control she tested the native-speakers on the gender of particular words in French. The assumption would be the native-speakers would all agree on the…
One of the most exciting moments of my junior-high-school career was stepping into my first-ever foreign-language classroom. While foreign language studies had a reputation for being tedious, I was nonetheless thrilled at the idea of being able to communicate with people from a different, seemingly…

Yeah, I just learned about this one, too. Indeed, I should have caught it earlier. But let's not curse the taxonomists, most of whom have a rather poor handle on Latin grammar, and themselves suffer from the interminable linguistic hegemony of the ancient Roman Empire! (Better than phylocode though, eh?)

Most Latin words ending in -ulus, -ulum, -ula are diminutive nouns, maybe even all of them in the classical language. There are a few exceptions though in taxonomic Latin, such as the specific epithet of Paratrechina parvula, a diminutive of a diminutive, if you will. Parvus means small, so parvulus means, roughly, itty-bitty!

By James C. Trager (not verified) on 10 Sep 2008 #permalink

I once read a translation of "dominulus" as "builder of a small home in the city," which accurately describes the paper wasps near me.

By patterson clark (not verified) on 11 Sep 2008 #permalink

On page 311 of the determinationguide

Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification No.5 (February 2008) BUCK ET AL.

Identification Atlas of the Vespidae (Hymenoptera,

Aculeata) of the northeastern Nearctic region

MATTHIAS BUCK, STEPHEN A. MARSHALL and DAVID K.B. CHEUNG

you can find, at the start of the discussion of the wasp, the following comment:

74. Polistes dominula (Christ, 1791)

Figs B10.1, 3, 4, 44; C74.1â8.

NOMENCLATURAL NOTE. J.M. Carpenter (pers.

comm.) kindly pointed out to us that the correct

gender ending for this species is dominula.

âDominulaâ is the diminutive form of the Latin

noun domina (= mistress) and therefore indeclinable

(the original combination is Vespa dominula

Christ).

The book, put on the internet in February 2008, you can find on the internet as html or as pdf on

http://www.biology.ualberta.ca/bsc/ejournal/ejournal.html

Very nice book by the way .....

By Marc "Teleutot… (not verified) on 11 Sep 2008 #permalink