Books  Evolutionary Biology  Cladistics, Phylogeny, Phenology & Taxonomy 

The Naming of the Shrew: A Curious History of Latin Names

Popular Science
A witty tribute to the history, construction and joyousness of the Latin names that describe our natural world

By: John Wright (Author)

304 pages, b/w illustrations

Bloomsbury Publishing

Paperback | Oct 2015 | #225035 | ISBN-13: 9781408865552
Availability: Usually dispatched within 48 hours
NHBS Price: £9.99 $12/€11 approx
Hardback | Nov 2014 | #216818 | ISBN-13: 9781408816981
Out of Print Details

About this book

Latin names – frequently unpronounceable, all too often wrong and always a tiny puzzle to unravel – have been annoying the layman since they first became formalised as scientific terms in the eighteenth century.

Why on earth has the entirely land-loving Eastern Mole been named Scalopus aquaticus, or the Oxford Ragwort been called Senecio squalidus – 'dirty old man'? What were naturalists thinking when they called a beetle Agra katewinsletae, a genus of fish Batman, and a Trilobite Han solo? Why is zoology replete with names such as Chloris chloris chloris (the greenfinch), and Gorilla gorilla gorilla (a species of, well gorilla)?

The Naming of the Shrew will unveil these mysteries, exploring the history, celebrating their poetic nature and revealing how naturalists sometimes get things so terribly wrong. With wonderfully witty style and captivating narrative, The Naming of the Shrew will make you see Latin names in a whole new light.

"[...] This is popular nature writing at its best: insightful, entertaining and often very funny."
– Peter Marren, British Wildlife 26(2), December 2014

"Who would have thought that a book about Latin names could be quite so compelling!!"
– Alan Titchmarsh

"Brims with verbal curiosities"
– Nature

"Nature writing at its best: insightful, entertaining and often very funny"
– British Wildlife

"I have not fully recovered from the discovery that the proper Latin name of the western lowland gorilla is Gorilla gorilla gorilla
– Independent on Sunday

"Weird and wonderful
– Sunday Telegraph

– The Lady

"The pleasure of Wright's book is the contrast between the rigour required for giving names and the careless minds and mischievous humour of those who devise them"
– The Times

"Fascinating and funny"
– BBC Countrylife

"Erudite but whimsical [...] a book as charming as it is wise"
– Irish Examiner

"A great read"
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John Wright is a passionate natural historian and the author of the River Cottage Handbooks Mushrooms, Edible Seashore and Hedgerow. As well as writing for national publications, he often appears on the River Cottage series for Channel 4. He gives lectures on natural history and every year he takes around fifty 'forays' showing people how to collect food plants from the hedgerow, seaweeds and shellfish from the shore and mushrooms from pasture and wood. Over a period of twenty years he has taken around five hundred such forays. Fungi are his greatest passion and he has thirty-five years' experience in studying them. John Wright is a member of the British Mycological Society and a Fellow of the Linnaean Society. He lives in rural West Dorset with his wife and two teenage daughters.

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