The Pitfalls of Dinosaur Pronunciation

With a new dinosaur species being announced on average once every twenty days or so, it can be hard keeping up with all the developments in the dinosaur family tree.  One of the biggest problems we have when reading a scientific paper is the fact that in almost every paper or journal we have ever encountered, there isn’t a handy pronunciation guide provided.

This can cause problems when determining how a dinosaur, or indeed any other extinct organism name should be said.  We are not alone with this problem, a number of extinct animals are pronounced in slightly different ways by palaeontologists, remember the great debate about how to exactly say the genus Diplodocus for example.

One of the dinosaurs most commonly tripped over by young dinosaur fans when it comes to its name being said out loud is the dinosaur genus known as Chasmosaurus.  The name is not as tongue-twistingly difficult as some members of the Dinosauria, for example Micropachycephalosaurus (mike-row-pack-ee-sep-hal-low-sore-us), things become worse when you have to pronounce the formal binomial classification, i.e. the genus and the species name together, in this instance Micropachycephalosaurus hongtuyanensis.

Chasmosaurus, for example Chasmosaurus belli, is known from extensive fossil material found in western North America from as far north as Alberta; to the deep south of the United States (Texas).  This five metre long, Late Cretaceous horned dinosaur, (Ceratopsian) is one of the most studied of all Campanian (Campanian faunal stage) Ornithischian dinosaurs.  However, the name still catches out the unwary.

An Illustration of Chasmosaurus

“Chasm Lizard”

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view a model of Chasmosaurus: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

Despite this dinosaur being known about for almost 140 years, its name can still catch you out if you are not careful.  This dinosaur’s name means “Chasm Lizard”, from the Latin chasma which itself is derived from the Greek khasma which means “gaping hollow”.  This is why sometimes the meaning for this dinosaur’s name is stated as “Ravine Lizard”.  Anyway, the trick to saying this name correctly is to remember the original Greek root – Chasmosaurus is not stated as “Chas-mow-sore-us” as in “Chas and Dave” for example.  It is pronounced “Kaz-mow-sore-us”.

Following an extensive revision of the fossil material in the mid 1990s, the number of species assigned to the Chasmosaurus genus has been greatly reduced, but undoubtedly new species will come to light and there is a good chance that the unwary reader of a news article or report on a discovery will make the mistake that has haunted this dinosaur for all of its near 140 years of being known to science – the name will be pronounced incorrectly.

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