Œcology: what happened to the dipthong?
The term "Oecologie" was coined in 1866 by Ernst Haeckal (a german biologist who supported Darwin's theories of evolution) in his book Generrelle Morphologie der Organismem (Schwarz & Jax, 2011). In the translation to English, "œcology" was introduced to match the German pronunciation. At the international Madison Botanical Congress (1983) it was decided – based on the recommendation of a Committee on Terminology of Physiology – to drop the dipthong and simply call the field "ecology" (Madison Botanical Congress 1894, Pg. 38). However, when reading the minutes of this meeting, it is clear that the committee had insufficient time available to come to grips with this new field of "ecology" (i.e. they didn't even attempt to provide a definition for it) and the only – arguably hasty – decision that was made was to remove the dipthong. The reason given for this was that a future definition of œcology would be found under "O" in the dictionary. Although some researchers continued to use "œcology" (despite this decision) and there was debate on the topic (e.g. Wheeler, 1902), the use of the dipthong eventually faded into obscurity.
I try to use it where I can, firstly to remember where the roots of ecology are found, and secondly because the decision seems to be in keeping with the American tradition of changing English spelling under the guise of "reforming" the language without many any tangible contribution.