Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Thinking aloud

I noticed recently that some words I have been saying silently to myself for years (and never heard aloud), I mispronounce. For example, I got sucked into Project Euler for awhile. Come to find out from Wikipedia, it is not 'eu' like in 'eubacteria' but 'oi' like in 'oiler.' Or FASTA, which is 'FAST-Aye' according to the same source. The silliest one is 'GUI', which is apparently pronounced 'gooey' by the cognoscenti. You'll never hear me saying that...it sounds really stupid.

Another issue is grammatical. You probably know that messenger RNA is not an apt name, messengers don't get carried or translated, messages do. And the Genetic Code has a quite specific meaning. However, editors at the New York Times and elsewhere apparently like to use it as a synonym for DNA sequence, as in 'Scientists have deciphered the genetic code of the honeybee.' Just google 'site:nytimes.com genetic code' if you don't believe me. I wrote to the author of one of these articles to inform her of her nomenclatural error, and she said that the editors of the New York Times simply don't care what we scientists think. They decided that people feel more comfortable with their usage, and they are not bothered that it's incorrect! It seems a pretty cavalier attitude from the top U.S. newspaper of record.

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