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(When it was introduced into school curricula, in the early decades of the 20th century, it was referred to as the “reformed pronunciation.” You can think of it as the “weeny, weedy, weaky” school.) But this way of pronouncing Latin never gained a foothold in the scientific world.Another possible source of confusion is the Latin used (though much less extensively now than in the pre–Vatican II days) by the Roman Catholic Church.
To understand the idiosyncratic pronunciation of botanical Latin, we need to go back to the late 6th century, the point when Latin was introduced in Britain.
(Or rather reintroduced, for of course Latin had been spoken by the Roman legions that had occupied Britain from the 1st to the early 5th century, and by the Romanized Celts they dominated, but the Anglo-Saxon tribes who ousted the Celts after the Romans departed were ignorant of the language.) This relatinization of Britain was carried out by missionaries sent out from Rome by Pope Gregory the Great, and they spoke and taught a Latin that, which a few minor exceptions, was the same as that spoken by 1st-century Romans.
Just think of your forays into botanical Latin as the linguistic equivalent of the first time you ate a raw oyster.
As the ancient Romans said, should be pronounced air-ih-koh-EYE-deez.
Leafing through these volumes turns up a surprising number of cases in which even seasoned gardeners use pronunciations that are, technically, incorrect.
(See “Some Common Mispronunciations,” below.) Not that that’s the worst horticultural sin you can commit.
This tandem development continued until the mid-19th century, when Victorian scholars attempted for a time to reintroduce the observance of the distinction between long and short vowels.
Then, a few decades later, the reformed pronunciation took hold—except in those professions and disciplines, such as botany, medicine, and law, where Latin words and phrases had long been in continual use, and here the “traditional” English pronunciation stuck.
The two most reliable guides I’ve found are at 20 paces.
In both works, long vowels are indicated by a grave accent (‘) and short vowels by an acute accent (’); the accents also indicate where the stress falls.