Some Difficult Rhododendron Names
Dr. William Corbin
The twenty-seven names of species rhododendrons listed below are I think the most troublesome, and most widely mispronounced in the entire lengthy list of species. The editor has broadly hinted and finally requested that I undertake the program of pronunciation, so often requested by members, though I must confess that I have been interested in just such a project for my own gratification, I do not imply to be any authority save my own interest and some research.
The pronunciation of names of species rhododendrons has fallen on the fancier and gardener alike in a manner unlike any other scientific field. The pronunciation of the Latin, Greek, and proper names employed in naming the species seemingly have no standard erudition, but spring from many attempts at pronunciation and accentuation. In all other fields where an abundance of scientific names are used the pronunciation training employed in the colleges and universities usually reaches a remarkable degree of standardization amongst those who employ the use of terms connected with their profession. As is the case many times first association with the pronunciation of a certain species is grossly in error but if little thought or study toward correction is applied, the precedent is set, and an entire district will use this peculiar pronunciation. It must of course, be remembered that if the usage is wide spread even though wrong, an understanding is effected and understood, and such usage might hardly be termed erroneous, since no standard authority can be quoted in contradiction.
It has long been my desire to actually have the Society adopt a standard pronunciation of these names based on the British pronunciation. Especially since many of the proper names of these species are named after British citizens whose correct pronunciation could hardly be questioned. Since a number of members of the Society have visited England it has amazingly been revealed that pronunciation deviates as widely there as it does in America. An example of what confronts anyone dealing in the usage of proper names can be applied to the species R. maddenii, named after Lt. Col. E. Madden. Is the name Madden pronounced Mad'-en, or Maiden. No clues are apparent here as to which is actually correct, yet, anyone familiar with the family would of course, be sure. At least two distinct pronunciations were observed of this species by visiting members of the Society to England. One of the members asked an authority of rhododendrons in England as to what was the correct pronunciation of a species while on a visit to an English garden. No attempt was made at clarification, but the casual remark "As long as one understands what species a person has in mind little else matters;" could very well be the final answer.