Studying Mushrooms > Pronouncing Latin Names


Pronouncing Latin and Greek Names

by Michael Kuo

Oh, who cares?

Pronounce the Latin names of mushrooms any way that works for you, and if someone laughs at you, maybe you can think of some other names, in clear English, to pronounce for them.

Nothing is worse than an English speaking mycologist who corrects people's Latin pronunciation. I mean, it's not like the "correct" pronunciation is anywhere close to the way Latin should be pronounced. For crying out loud, the "correct" pronunciation of Amanita in English rhymes with (I) "am a fighta" ("not a lova").

Those of us who suffered through highschool Latin recall our teachers' explanations about "Church Latin" ("vaynee, veedee, veechee" for veni, vidi, vici) and "real" Latin ("waynee, weedee, weekee"). Now we've got Mispronounced Mycological Latin to throw in the mix?

And how about those antepenultimate syllable people who insist on stressing the second-to-last syllable every time? "Lie-AW-full-um" for Lyophyllum, and so on. When you ask them what they're doing (like, "Excuse me, what are you doing?") they tell you it's a rule. Ask them why they don't, therefore, say "stro-bill-OH-my-seas" for Strobilomyces, and they've got nothing.

Because English is the international language these days (or because Americans and Brits are less open-minded about such things and the rest of the world finds it easier to just cave in), mycologists from countries that don't speak English have adopted the mispronunciations used by English speaking mycologists--though I suspect they secretly wince inside with every term. When not in the presence of English speaking mycologists, however, many pronounce the names in ways that are more reasonable--like, "ah-mah-nee-tah"--especially the mycologists from countries whose languages descend from Latin.

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Kuo, M. (2001). Pronouncing Latin and Greek names. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: