White-cheeked Honeyeater

To: 'Carl Clifford' <>, 'Martin Butterfield' <>, "" <>
Subject: White-cheeked Honeyeater
From: Philip Veerman <>
Date: Tue, 23 Jun 2015 04:24:43 +0000
Clive wrote that "Christidis & Boles list it as Phylidonyris niger" but not in 
my copy. Christidis & Boles (RAOU Monograph 2 1994) give it as Phylidonyris 
nigra and quote Bechstein 1811. It is also given (by Cayley) as Meliornis, 
meaning honey + bird. Not that I know much, but hard to see how Latin Philedon 
= honeyeater. Wouldn't phil relate to lover, rather than eater? (I would have 
thought eater would be phag. Is edon = honey? I would have thought the issue 
comes down to what was the spelling given at the time it was first described, 
being the correct name, unless there is a reason to determine that as invalid 
or changed. Should priority of name be changed just because of mismatch of 
gender between genus and species name? What a crazy idea that is, especially if 
it is as hard to decide as it would appear to be here. 

I am amused by Carl's "is a bit of a manmade word". Assuming that man includes 
women, I wonder what other sort of word exists. (Carl first left the n out of 
Phylidonyris and in the 2nd message extended this by leaving out the ny.) Some 
of these changes happen in books just because someone made a mistake and many 
other books copied the mistake. Good example is in the Sparrowhawk wrongly 
listed in many books as Accipiter cirrhocephalus instead of Accipiter 


-----Original Message-----
From: Birding-Aus  On Behalf Of 
Carl Clifford
Sent: Tuesday, 23 June 2015 10:49 AM
To: Martin Butterfield
Cc: Birding-Aus
Subject: White-cheeked Honeyeater

Hmm, that is slightly different to what is said in James Jobling's "A 
Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. If Phylidoris is one of those Greek-Latin 
hybrid words, it probably should be given a specific epithet that is neuter. No 
doubt whoever agreed on the name thought they were a better classicist than 
they actually were.

You are right about giving words a gender, a right pain. Could be worse though. 
Latin could be still alive and well and we would have to deal with the 
declension of nouns on to of their gender. No wonder the Roman Empire declined.

Carl Clifford

> On 23 Jun 2015, at 9:44 am, Martin Butterfield <> wrote:
> According to "Australian Bird Names a complete guide" by Ian Fraser and 
> Jeannie Gray the Philedon element comes from the Greek for "attractive",  The 
> Cinnyris bit does link back to sunbird .
> The business of gender of names all makes me glad we speak English, as with 
> all the irrationalities in that language, at least we avoided daftness like 
> having to decide what gender to apply to words such as the French 
> "l'internet"!
> Martin
> Martin Butterfield
>> On 22 June 2015 at 21:24, Carl Clifford <> wrote:
>> Hi Clive,
>> Bit of an update on the mystery. I have been doing a bit of a rummage 
>> through the library, and it seems that Phylidoyris is a bit of a manmade 
>> word. It comes from the French, Phylédon (Honeyeater), which comes from the 
>> Latin Philedon (honeyeater), cobbled together with the Latin Cynnyris 
>> (sunbird). No wonder the taxonomists couldn't decide which sex the word was. 
>> Probably should have been called nigrum, the neuter form.
>> Carl Clifford
>> > On 22 Jun 2015, at 4:17 pm, Clive Nealon <> wrote:
>> >
>> > Greetings,
>> > Can someone explain, please, why HANZAB, Pizzey & Knight (8th Ed), and
>> > Morcombe field guides list White-cheeked Honeyeater as Phylidonyris nigra,
>> > and
>> > IOC and Christidis & Boles list it as Phylidonyris niger?
>> > Thanks.

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