Talking In Toadstool
by Mariana D. Bornholdt
There are two challenges posed by the scientific language of mushrooms:
•   How to remember the names
•   How to pronounce them
This guide will help you with both, but mainly with pronouncing them.

In biology, including mycology (the study of fungi), Latin is used for scientific names the world over. These names have two parts: the first part shows the family (genus); the second the specific kind it is (species)

Example: Bornholdt mariana or Bornholdt mariana, not Mariana Bornholdt  (NOTE:  Foreign words are always shown in italics or underlined,* and mycological Latin is no exception. Note also, genus is capitalized, species is not.)
Latin is said to be a dead language, but don't you believe it! It not only persists, both in written and spoken form, in scientific writing and in some churches, but in addition it has sired many Western European languages, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Roumanian. It also deeply penetrates English, German, and other modern languages.

Pronunciation of Latin is based on standard pronunciation of vowels (a,e,i,o,u, and sometimes y), varying only in consonants. "C" is a good example.

  • Classical Latin when taught in schools throughout the United States, pronounces "C" as "K", known as "hard C".
    Example: "KICK-er-oh" for Cicero.
  • Church Latin, developed in the middle Ages, treats "C" as "soft", sounding like "SIS"
    Example: "SIS-er-oh" for Cicero.
  • Mycological Latin, on the other hand, combines both sounds.
    Example 1: Clytocybe is pronounced "kly-taw-SIB-bee", using the "hard" C of classical Latin at the word=s beginning and the "soft" C of Church Latin in its middle.
    Example 2: Russula virescens is pronounced ROO-so-lah vee-RACE-ens or ROO-so-lah veer-ESS-sens. (Mycological Latin also departs from classical and church Latin by pronouncing "V" as "vee" – not "wee." Thus, this species is not ROO-so-lah weer-EES-sens.)
    W. H. Stearn (Botanical Latin, 1983) remarks, "How [scientific names... are pronounced matters little provided that they sound pleasant and are understood by all concerned." This is an important guide to pronunciation of mushroom names. Both amateur and professional mycologists most likely pronounce scientific names according to the way their mentor pronounced them. When in doubt, with few exceptions (such as noted above), just pronounce them in accordance with the rules of classical Latin. Whatever you do, the main thing is to pronounce them with awe-THOR-it-TEE!
    M D Bornholdt 1999 rev. 2009
    *Editor's Note: Underlining text is the means on a typed or hand-written manuscript by which the author indicates to the publisher that words should be italicized. In other words, if words require it, italicize – rather than underline – whenever possible.
    dmw . 2o15-12-2o

    first posted ~a44