December 15, 2004

The rape of Greek terminology

The use of newly-coined terms with Greek roots in many branches of science continues, for three main reasons: (i) the use of words of Greek origin continues the scientific tradition of the past (ii) composites are easily formed in the Greek language unlike many other languages of the word, (iii) the Greek language in its classical form is a timeless medium of communication, and thus avoids potential problems with the evolving semantics of words drawn from vocabularies of living languages.

A post at the Genealogy-DNA list is a great example of the dangers inherent in the demise of classical learning. In ages past, many scientists had a humanistic education or could refer to colleagues who did so, and this accounts for so many of the Greek terms used in modern discourse. Today, this is not the case, leading to many suggestions of words which amount to a rape of terminology.

Some examples from the above-linked post:

"anthrogenealogy" instead of "anthropogenealogy"
"genetealogy" for "genetic genealogy"
"begetealogy" allegedly a combination of "beget" and "genealogy" which fails both for being a composit of an English with a Greek word, and for not actually including the second part "genealogy" in the composite word, and for the awful hiatus "ea"
"parentealogy" allegedly a combination of "parent" and "genealogy"

Of course it is understandable that people want to invent new terms to express new ideas. But, one doesn't always need to form a new compound for every new word. If a venerable discipline like "Organic Chemistry" does not need an abbreviation, neither does "Genetic Genealogy".

Moreover, if someone is hell-bent on inventing new terms, they should at least consult an expert.


Yet another "expert" suggests that "genealogy" itself ought to be changed to geneology because allegedly "genealogy" includes "alogy" which means "NOT logical". A knowledgeable reader corrects the continued abuse of the Greek language.

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