Communal peeing: a new mode of flood control in ants

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Mon Apr 2 13:39:35 UTC 2001

A few questions need to be addressed here.

(1) Is "pee" a conventional verb in the specialized nomenclature of
entomology? [I suspect not, but I don't know for certain.]

(2) Is the author being humorous?

(3) Is the author inclined to idiosyncratic nomenclature, either
frivolously or to make some kind of linguistic point?

It cannot be assumed, on the basis of publication in a respected
peer-reviewed journal, that the author will be held to standard
nomenclature. I remember about 30 years ago a series of very fine articles
in physical chemistry which were deliberately written with extremely arcane
vocabulary. I THINK the author may have been Andrew Liehr; I THINK the
papers may have appeared in the Journal of Chemical Physics. I can't
remember all of the examples, but IIRC almost every paragraph contained
words entirely unfamiliar to me (and to almost everyone else, including
physical chemists). I remember that this author -- in papers about
molecular symmetry! -- eschewed the word "symmetry" in favor of
"eurhythmy", essentially a synonym but virtually never seen in chemistry
(or anywhere else, AFAIK). I also remember the expression "in conclusion
..." replaced by "in desinence ...". Why did the publisher permit this
bizarre word-play? Because the science was good and the author was adamant,
I guess.

With respect to "micturition", I haven't heard this outside medical
terminology. In medicine, it is my impression that "micturition" refers
exactly to the physiology of the normal emptying of the bladder, so that it
is not exactly synonymous with "urination". For example, a man who has
undergone cystectomy typically still has urination (via ileostomy,
nephrostomy, or whatever) but he does not have micturition. I'm not sure
that this distinction is always strictly observed even in medicine,
however. One might consider an analogy such as: "micturition" is to
"urination" as "emptying of the trash can" is to "trash disposal". I don't
know much about entomologists' usage.

-- Doug Wilson

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