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Sappy Sapientes On:2013-07-21 15:00:00

I'm sure I don't need to tell you what a Linnæan binomial is, but for the benefit of that ignoramus on the next radio... 

Linnæus was a Swede, a sort of  eighteenth century Wallander, but of science rather than of miserably gruesome crime solving. Anyway he (Linnæus not Wallander), he it was that started the systemisation of naming animals and vegetables, though (strangely enough) not minerals. He did it by looking at animals and plants (though strangely enough not minerals) as members of a nested hierarchy starting at the top with with three kingdoms: animal, vegetable and (Oh!) mineral (Aaah! But we don't care about that! Even he forgot about it after a while.), and ending at the bottom with the genus and species, thus giving a double scientific name to identify them, and as a good eighteenth century Swede he did it in Latin (well, back then everyone did, I mean Latin was sort of like the English of his day) so the kingdoms were really regnorum: Animalia, Vegetabile, and Lapideum (though we don't care about that last one).

Linnæus described living things as accurately as he could, and then looked for similarities and differences among and between them, and then put them in categories.

Anyway, as an example, take Man---I mean Man with a capital "Mmm" as human being in the original non-sexy meaning of the word. Linnæus coined the binomial Homo sapiens, 'wise Man', for us and, incidentally, placed us in the same larger group, or order, which he called Anthropomorpha, as monkeys apes, ...and two-toed sloths?
That last association with the sloth having, over time, been dropped for obvious reasons.

Indeed, not only did he name us, just like any other animal, but Linnæus's own remains are the 'holotype' or type specimen for all of humanity! Forget about Adam; the original man (at least as far as scientific naming is concerned) is old Linnæus himself! Obviously when it came to describing our species he chose the nearest convenient specimen, and specimens certainly didn't come any more convenient than his own body.
So that, for the benefit of that guy on the next radio, is what a Linnæan binomial is.

Now it has occurred to me that calling ourselves Homo sapiens has always contained the suggestion that, deep down, we have certain reservations, reservations amounting to serious doubt, about exactly what wisdom our species is supposed to have. And then again, calling ourselves Homo sapiens sapiens (as we often do now-a-days to distinguish ourselves from that close cousin---you know the one we never invite to family get-togethers---Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) has definite shades of "the lady doth protest too much, methinks" about it.

(As a probably unwise aside: did you know that the 'doth' version of that quote is only in the second Quarto of Hamlet, the First Quarto and the otherwise authoritative First Folio are rather more modern and leave out the 'doth' but "the lady protests too much" ain't Shakespearian enough for us, so, in a sort of 'play-it-again-Sammy' move, we go with the better quote rather than what might well be the real one. Perhaps we do that unwisely if not particularly well.
And I really must stop doing all these silly asides, however Shakespearian they may be.)

And anyway it seems a much more honest, not to mention wise, move to forget about all that sapient stuff, take a good look at ourselves and change our Linnæan binomial to Homo credentis, 'gullible Man', rather than that totally unbelievable 'wise Man'. Or, as I sometimes think might be more appropriate, even change it to Homo pontesbrooklyniensisemptor---'Man the buyer of Brooklyn Bridges', I'm sure a lot of e-mail sending Nigerian princes, diplomats and bankers can attest from personal phishing experience.

Huh! Homo sapiens indeed!

Cheerio for now
Richard Howland-Bolton

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