Tag Archives: nomenclature

Geneticists scolded for giving genes silly names

grouchoSome fruit-fly genes have names like these:

Groucho Marx: A fruit fly that produces an excess of facial bristles.

Cheap Date: A fruit fly that expresses high sensitivity to alcohol.

Ken and Barbie: Fruit flies that fail to develop external genitalia.

I’m Not Dead Yet: INDY for short, these are fruit flies who live longer than usual. [NPR explains where this came from, like you don’t know if you’re reading this blog]

Harmless enough, you’d think, but:

Since it’s increasingly likely some fruit fly genes will show up in humans, Dr. [Murray] Feingold [a Massachusetts clinician who treats people with genetic diseases] warns it will not be possible for doctors to hide a scientific name like “I’m Not Dead Yet.”…

And for a doctor, these names become embarrassing “when that gene becomes responsible for some kind of medical problem and I have to tell that patient, ‘Well, I’m sorry things don’t look so good because you have [the] I’m Not Dead Yet gene.'”

So it’s not just PC run amok, but a curious case study in the democratization of information. Your take?

[The immortal Julius Marx: Wikimedia Commons]

Is “sci-fi” still a dirty word?

The gals and guys over at io9 have reheated the perennial debate of whether or not ‘science fiction’ is an accurate or useful descriptive name for the genre, with a side excursion into ‘is it OK to say sci-fi?’

As pointed out by plenty of commenters there, it’s not really a very important question. However, I am unable to get on my high horse about it, because I do tend to get sniffy when people who don’t know anything about the genre beyond Trek and Wars dismiss my book collection as ‘sci-fi’… and don’t get me started on people who say “oh, proper science fiction… like Heroes, yeah?” [image by Jim Linwood]

But from a marketing perspective, there’s a worthwhile question at the root of the debate: is the label of science fiction (however you contract or recast it) a kiss of commercial death? The massive success of Michael Chabon’s Yiddish Policemen’s Union – very carefully not marketed as science fiction, but embraced by the genre scene nonetheless – seems to suggest that the public can stomach the material of the genre.

So maybe it’s the internecine bitching over ephemera that puts them off?