Dictionary Review


Author: Murray Wrobel
ISBN: 0-444-51499-6
Publisher: Elsevier B.V.Europe, Middle East &
               Africa:Linacre House, Jordan Hill
               Oxford OX2 8DP, Regno Unito
               UK US & Canada: 11830 Westline Industrial
               Drive St. Louis, MO 63146, USA
Publication date: 2004
Price: €150.00 / US$ 165.00
Languages: Latin, English, French, German and Italian
Number of pages: 758  
Elsevier’s Dictionary of Herpetological and Related Terminology
Author: David C. Wareham
ISBN: 0-444-51863-0
Publisher:       Elsevier B.V.
Publication date: 2005
Price: €85.00 / US$ 93.50
Languages: English
Number of pages: 240
Let's not mince words: within a few months of each other, Elsevier has published two impressive volumes, further enhancing its primacy. First, Murray Wrobel's latest.  Quoting www.elsevier.com and the leaflet, it covers the "names of orders, families, genera and species of reptiles of the world".  Considering that there are 8,240 species of reptiles, from worm lizards to turtles1, Wrobel's 8,826 lemmata seem to translate into a really exhaustive recueil. As a substance test, I turned to an old quest and went hunting for dragons. Not the mythical ones, but the family Agamidae, subfamily Agaminae, genus Draco, the insectivore flying dragons of SE Asia,.The most up-to-date listing, compiled by McGuire and Heang in 2001, included 33 species. Wrobel achieves a sound 20/33 (60%).  D. quadrasi, palawanensis and mindanensis may be absent, but every flying dragon of consequence is listed from D. maximus, the great flying dragon (8 inches long!), to D. taeniopterus, or Thai flying dragon, a most refined mini-glider with 2-inch wingspan. Taking advantage of a great zoological site, www.omne-vivum.com, and its extensive English database, I obtained the following table: 
Species (McGuire et al)Omne-vivumWrobel
D. affinis
Latin only
Bartlett's Flying Dragon
D. baccarii
D. biaro
Latin only
Lazell's Flying Dragon
D. bimaculatus
Two-spotted Flying Lizard
D. blanfordii
Blanford's Flying Lizard
Blanford's (Flying) Dragon 
D. caerulhians
Latin only
D. cornutus
Latin only
D. cristatellus
Latin only
D. cyanopterus
Latin only
D. dussumieri
Indian Flying Dragon
+ 5 different regional variations
D. everetti
[Omne-Vivum only]
Everette's Flying Lizard
D. fimbriatus
Orange-throated Flying Lizard
Fringed Flying Dragon
D. formosus
[Wrobel only]
Formosa Flying Dragon
D. guntheri
Günther's Flying Lizard
D. haematopogon
Red-bearded Flying Lizard
Red-barbed (Flying) Dragon
D. indochinensis
D. jareckii
Latin only
Jarechi's Flying Dragon
D. lineatus
Latin only
Lined Flying Dragon
D. maculatus
Orange-winged Flying Lizard
Spotty/Spotted Flying Dragon
D. maximus
Giant Flying Dragon
Great Flying Dragon
D. melanopogon
Black-bearded Flying Lizard
Black-barbed (Flying) Dragon
D. mindanensis
Mindanao Flying Lizard
D. norvillii
Alcock's Flying Dragon
D. obscurus
Malayan Flying Lizard
Veiled Flying Dragon
D. ornatus
White-spotted Flying Lizard
D. palawanensis
Latin only
D. quadrasi
Quadras' Flying Lizard
D. quinquefasciatus
Five-spotted Flying Lizard
Five-lined Flying Dragon
D. reticulatus
Reticulated Flying Lizard
D. rizali [Omne-Vivum only]
Riza's Flying Lizard
D. spilopterus
Common Flying Lizard
Philippine Flying Dragon
D. sumatranus
D. taeniopterus
Banded-winged Flying Lizard
(Thai) Flying Dragon/Lizard
D. timorense
D. volans 
F + D only
Common Flying Dragon
 Looking at the pairing choices for dragons, not all languages were created equal. Wrobel offers 9 German translations out of 20 Latin headwords, 10 French renditions, but not one drago volante. This distribution is extreme, but with less than 800 pairings, Italian is somewhat underrepresented, compared to about 2800 names in German and about 2500 in French. Before decrying the neglect of the only language capable of producing the immortal "La liscia biscia sull'erba striscia ed indi poscia essendo moscia alza la coscia e piscia2", we must recognize that one of the best Italian sites in the field, www.serpenti.it, doesn't do much better. It offers 543 names of species in both Latin and English and only 7 Italian equivalents. Specifically: 
Latin nameItalian nameEnglish nameWrobel
Acanthophis antarcticusvipera della mortecommon death adder4I + E
Crotalus adamanteuscrotalo diamantinoEastern diamondback rattlesnake4I + E
Crotalus viridiscrotalo verdeWestern rattlesnake, prairie rattlesnake4I + Ealso: crotalo del Pacifico
Elaphe guttataserpente del granocorn snake, red ratsnake4I + Ealso: elafe scarlatta
Oxyuranus microlepidotustaipaninland taipan4I + Ealso: taipan australiano
Oxyuranus scutellatustaipan - serpente bruno australianobrown taipan - coastal taipan4I + E
Thamnophis hammondiiserpente giarrettieragarter snake - ribbon snake4I + E
 If we verify the most common Italian snakes, Wrobel does even better: 
Latin nameItalian nameEnglish nameWrobel


Coluber gemonensiscolubro dei BalcaniBalkans snake––
Coluber hippocrepis colubro ferro di cavallohorseshoe snake4I + Ealso: colubro sardo
Coluber viridiflavus
dark green snake
4I + E
also: other 6 Italian variations
Coronella austriacacolubro lisciosmooth snake4I + Ealso: colubro austriaco
Coronella girondicacolubro di RiccioliSouthern smooth snake4I + Ealso: other 4 Italian variations
Elaphe longissimasaettone, colubro d'EsculapioAesculapian snake4I + Ealso: other 4 Italian variations
Elaphe quatuorlineata
four-lined snake
4I + Ealso: other 3 English variations
Elaphe situlacolubro leopardinoleopard snake4I + Ealso: other 3 English variations
Macroprotodon cucullatuscolubro dal cappucciofalse smooth snake4I + Ealso: colubro cucullato
Malpolon monspessulanuscolubro lacertinoMontpellier snake 4I + Ealso: colubro di Montpellier
Natrix maurabiscia viperinaviperine snake4I + Ealso: biscia viperina
Natrix natrixbiscia dal collareEuropean grass snake4I + Ealso: other 8 Italian + 3 English variations
Natrix tessellatabiscia tassellatatessellated grass snake4I + Ealso: other 2 Italian + 3 English variations
Telescopus fallaxserpente gattocat snake 4I + Ealso: other 4 Italian + 3 English variations
Vipera ammodytesvipera dal cornohorned viper4I + Ealso: vipera ammodite and other 5 English variations
Vipera aspis 
vipera comune
aspic viper
4I + E+ other 4 variations
Vipera berusmarassoadder4I + Ealso: marasso palustre + other 7 English var.
Vipera ursiniivipera orsinifield adder4I + Ealso: meadow viper
 Here and elsewhere relevance is the key. There isn't one major poisonous and non-venomous snake, lizard, croc or turtle that doesn't have its Italian (often multiple) appellations. With a perfect Zen shift, this strength is also the dictionary's only minor weakness. As I had suspected in reviewing Wrobel's previous work, the Dictionary of Amphibians again by Elsevier, no distinction is made between Italian language and Italian koiné. I cannot say why the Sicialian Vèpra is offered together with the Calabrese Vipre as Italian names of the vipera comune, the shy Viper aspis.In order to properly follow the dialectal approach, the entries should be labeled according to the region and/or the linguistic group [exactly as Wrobel does for English and French variants] and the assemblage should be methodical. While I enjoyed finding Bergamo's bèssa as one variant of the feisty Natrix natrix or European grass snake, I cannot justify the exclusion of the Venetian bixa, the Milanese bissòn and the Campidanese tzerpi.This minor methodological flaw is typified by three of the many Italian names of the once common swamp turtle: galana d'acqua, tartuca stizziata and tartuca do sciumi. The first, although not Italian, is of unknown and perhaps unknowable origin, and the latter two seem to belong to the Central-Western Sicilian group ("sciume" means river in and around Enna and "stizziato" means spotted there, in Trapani and elsewhere). Alas, if this is the case, then the partitive must be "du" instead of "do". Still, this is the only typo I found in the whole book, and even the Italian issue is a mere peccadillo. In reality and by all accounts, Wrobel has produced another finely crafted opera mirabilis.
While a long search for Murray Wrobel's background has only produced a waif-like fashion model, the title of Compiler and a well-known association with Dr. Geoffrey Creber, editor and University of London paleobotanist, we know from the start that David C. Wareham, the former Curator of the Cannon Aquarium and Vivarium at the Manchester University Museum is the quintessential breeder.  This Elsevier's monolingual gem, based on a previous work, Reptile and Amphibian Keepers Dictionary (Blandford Press: 1993), roams the whole field of herpetology. Please ignore the leaflet and its gloomy audience of "amateur hobbyists faced with … intimidating scientific terms" and "trained zoologists who may sometimes have doubts over the exact meaning of a particular term" (short of politicians, do you know any other professional hobbyists? How well trained is a zoologist who does not know his/her own jargon?). Go straight to the book instead, and marvel. It covers external features of reptiles and amphibians, herpetological families, selected bibliographies, biological processes, herpetological jargon and acronyms, and a bevy of anatomical, ecological, toxicological, veterinarian and animal behavioral terms, with a grand total of over 3100 headwords and definitions, all carefully cross-referenced. Pending the reprint of Harvey B. Lillywhite's Dictionary of Herpetology, expected from Krieger Publishing Company in early 2006, and deprived of the 1964 seminal work with the same title by James A. Peters, I tried to put in context Wareham's true achievement using the following references: S. Brandolin Caraffa's (ed.) Dizionario di Zoologia, published in Milan by Rizzoli in 1987, and the equally trusted R.S. Hine /M.C. Fontana's (ed.) Enciclopedia Oxford di Veterinaria, the 1992 Muzzio's Italian version of Oxford's Concise Veterinary Dictionary; plus a few relevant Web sites such as www.kingsnake.com/toxinology, www.embl-heidelberg.de, www.arbec.com, www.uromastix.it and www.cortland.edu.  Randomly skipping along: 
abduct/adduct (to) abdurre/addurreý only abductor muscle
autotomyautotomiaþ + autotomy plane, breakage plane
bridge [between carapace and plastron]ponte [tra carapace e piastrone]þ
camouflagecolorazione cripticaþ + crypsis, cryptic coloration, disruptive coloration, disruptive outline
dorsolateral ridgestriscia dorsolateraleþ+ dorsolateral fold
ecdysismutaþ + the anthonym endysis
frillcresta, collareþ
intercalary cartilagecartilagine intercalareþ + intercalary replacement
keeled scalesscaglie carenateý only keel, but with a lengthy definition encompassing all variants
patagiumpatagioþ+ patagial rib
pentadactylpentadattiloþ + pentadactyl limb
Unkenreflexsame, riflesso ululoneþ Anglicized as unken reflex
vasoactivevasoattivoý only vasodilator and vasopressor
xericxericoþ + xeric pattern
yolkvitelloþ + vitellogenesis, vitellogenic activity, vitellogenin
 3 misses out of 22 lemmata equal 86% overlap. If this weren't remarkable enough, consider page after page of surprises, some delightful, some sinister: froggery, a gathering of frogs; rhumba, a gathering of rattlesnakes; meristic, of or relating to countable structures of an organism; quincunx, a group of five objects arranged in a rectangle or square, with one object at each of the four corners and a fifth in the center; jubal or the scales behind the head of the Eumece skink; jugal, or the scales below the crocodile's eyes; fuzzy, a new born mouse or rat that has just started to grow its fur; and pinky, a new born mouse or rat that has yet to grow its fur. 51 entries are dedicated to practitioners of note. It is a true herpetological Ghota, covering a span of three centuries, from Linnaeus to Albert and Anna Wright. The very best and brightest in the field is introduced with a touch so genteel it borders on reverence. I had to smile reading the entry about George Jan, a relatively famous Italian zoologist, who co-founded in 1838 and was the first director of the Natural History Museum of Milan. Giorgio, born Georg some two centuries ago, wouldn't have minded the French twist. On the contrary, he would have been the first to herald this dictionary and its author. 

1 I am not entering into the diatribe over Elapidae and Hydrophiidae currently raging among herpetologists. I do not care whether death adders and sea snakes are in the same family or not. I am just glad to live on the opposite side of the planet from both clades.
2 The smooth snake slithers on the grass and thereafter, being floppy, lifts its haunch and pees [sic!].