Sorting the Names of Palms

Notes on some languages

Note on African names

Relatively few palms and rattans are found in Africa, about 20 species out of 650 of rattans for instance. However numerous languages are found in each African country and any given palm or rattan has a name in many of those languages. We have confined ourselves to just the few African languages that we had originally selected when we designed our database. This was done so as to keep a balance, given that we attempt to cover the world at a basic level. When our task is completed in 2020, other people can completment the data by narrowing the compiling down to more specific languages and regions of the world. If any researcher wishes us to link to such existing database we would be happy to oblige.


Note on Danish names

Not many Danish names were found for palms but a fair number exists for Norwegian. Because these two languages are closely related we hope that Danish visitors can consult both Danish & Norwegian indexes. The Norwegian names may stimulate imaginations and one day we may be lucky to receive a short contribution of freshly composed Danish palm names. One can always live in hope.


Note on English names

As a preface, one can read Bill Bittle justified comments. His comments however can apply to any group of popular plants. See for example our parallel effort with bamboos. We postulate that it is extremely useful to group together as many related names as possible (common, vernacular and botanical past or present) in order to cross-index them all as a first step. It then becomes easier to spot the inconsistencies, the sources of the spelling mistakes and the interesting linguistic parallels and plant paths during their migration from the centers of origin. Palms appear to have the particular characteristic of having plenty of local names and very few genuine names in their places of adoption. So we see a proliferation of made-up hybrid names, especially in English. Either a foreign name (from original source) will be combined with an English one, or a botanical generic name combined with an English name, or a botanical specific epithet combined with an English name. This is not a bad thing in itself and may be necessary but one should keep an eye on the overall picture or it could get out of control. An example that comes to mind is Sabal blackburniana. Generally "blackburniana" refers to an Anglo Saxon person called Blackburn and gives the English common name Blackburn xxxx or more correctly Blackburn's xxx. We found in the literature the name Black burn xxx, implying perhaps a burnt appearance ? This is the kind of mistake that leads a non Anglo Saxon person to naming the plant Black-burnt xxx or Burnt xxx. Later on it could easily lead some people to associating blackburniana to a burnt appearance. This is not far fetched in a world where commercial and scientific forces are in ever increasing synergy and at a time when "average" people begin to grasp the obscure language of "experts".



Note on Malagasy names

Malagasy is the main language spoken by an estimated 9 390 000 people in Madagascar (Virtual Ethnologue - Report on Languages of Madagascar). We have assumed that most names found in the literature for the 167 species endemic to that country (Dransfield & Beentje 1995) are either in that language or closely related to it and in any case most likely to be understood by most educated people who can then become translators in field work. Consequently we have added this language to our long list only for the Palm section of our database... and we hope that linguists will forgive this necessary compromise. Malagasy index.


Note on Malay names

Malay is the main language spoken in the Malaysian Peninsula and many Indonesian islands. Indonesian is closely related to it and so are a number of dialects. We have regrouped all names for this region of the world under "Malay" and endeavour to indicate the name of the language or dialect within parenthesis next to each name in order to avoid confusion. Confusion is rampant anyhow but by systematically labeling each name we can progress with a little more confidence. Here again we beg the linguists for their pardon. What we lose in linguistic integrity is far more than compensated by what we gain in efficiency when using databases on computers which do not always obey their masters. Malay index.



Note on Thai names

As pointed out earlier the literature abonds in incomplete Thai names. Either one finds romanised names without the original script, or one finds Thai names in their original Thai script without any clue on the pronunciation. Often when the romanised version is given, it is either badly done or at best inconsistantly done. Below are examples that we need to work out during the next few months (second half of 2003). Botanical names have been worked on already, another problem being that more often than not botanical names can be misleading due to bad spelling or lack of author names. Thai index.


Original Thai script ? Nguay -> Calamus peregrinus Furtado

Original Thai script ? Paam khuat -> Roystonea regia (Kunth) O. F. Cook

Original Thai script ? Paam song tang -> Wallichia disticha T. Anderson


Is this Thai spelling correct ? Waai ..... -> Calamus floribundus Griff.


Waai chang -> Calamus ornatus Blume

Wai chaang -> Calamus ornatus Blume

In the above example is the Thai script correct ? If so should the romanised form be Waai chang or Wai chaang ? We know that Waai is correct but if chaang is correct either the Thai script should be changed or another Thai word corresponding to chaang should be added. Such subtle variations are common when moving from one part of a country to another.


Original Thai script ? Waai dam -> Calamus oxleyanus Teysm. & Binnend. ex Miq.

Original Thai script ? Waai khring -> Calamus palustris Griff.

Original Thai script ? Waai kuan -> Calamus javensis Blume

Original Thai script ? Waai kunun -> Calamus blumei Becc.

Original Thai script ? Waai maithao -> Calamus scipionum Lour.

Original Thai script ? Waai mon -> Calamus viminalis Willd.

Original Thai script ? Waai sam bai taw -> Calamus viminalis Willd.

Original Thai script ? Waai som -> Calamus viminalis Willd.

Original Thai script ? Waai ta kha thong -> Calamus caesius Blume

Original Thai script ? Waai tek -> Calamus javensis Blume


Is this also waai hin ? -> Calamus insignis Becc.

Is this also waai hin ? -> Calamus insignis Becc. var. insignis

Waai hin -> Calamus insignis Becc. var. longispinosus J. Dransf.

Is this also waai hin ? -> Calamus insignis Becc. var. robustus J. Dransf.



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Date created: 12 / 04 / 2003
Authorised by Prof. Snow Barlow
Last modified: 17 / 05 / 2003
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