Pronunciation of scientific names

August 2, 1999
From: Ed Lindquist

I'm new to the area of nudibranchs, and don't know how to pronounce MOST of the terms. For example - is it serata or kerata? I do know it's nudibrank! Where can I look?

Ed Lindquist

Lindquist, E., 1999 (Aug 2) Pronunciation of scientific names. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Ed,
Scientific names are based on Latin and Ancient Greek. These are both 'dead' languages and it seems even last century when many 'educated' people were taught classical languages, there were differences of opinion over pronunciation.

Even the example you ask about "Ceras" is pronounced Serass and Kerass by different people, just as Cephalopod is pronounced both Sephalo- and Kephalo-.

I would have replied a couple of days ago but I have been trying to find an article published not so long ago in a Shell Club magazine/newsletter with some handy hints on pronunciation. I can't find it, but hopefully someone reading this will know of something which could help you out.

The most important rule is to be tolerant of other people's pronunciation. A few years ago I went on a field trip with an esteemed colleague from the US (not an opisthobranch worker) who was very keen on finding a particular snail alive. He kept on telling me about its fabulous attributes etc etc and I promised to keep my eyes open for it - but I had no idea what he wanted - I just hoped he'd find one quickly so I could find out what he was talking about! I had asked him about 10 times in different ways about its name and each time was no better - I couldn't understand what he was talking about. Each day I would say I hadn't found any. It was 4 days before he found the animal and proudly showed me. It was something I had passed over many times in the last 4 days - and even when I knew what he was talking about I thought the snail must have had a name change because is pronunciation was so different.

I know this doesn't help you too much but I am sure someone reading the Forum wil be able to point us towards a relatively simple guide to pronunciations.

If you are new to opisthobranchs, can I say that much more exciting than their names, are the mysteries concerning their biology and natural history, where they live, what they eat, what the eggs look like etc. Photos and observations are always welcome on the Forum. In return for sharing photos and observations with us, the participants in the Forum can pretty much guarantee to give you a name, (if there is one), and some basic information, for any of your finds.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman.

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