Names and Naming

Hugh D. Wilson wilson at BIO.TAMU.EDU
Thu Jul 25 12:48:53 CDT 1996

Richard Jensen wrote:

"Hugh Wilson has a good point - scientific names are often less stable
than common names....

and Dennis Paulson noted:

I had the good fortune (and burden) of coining common names for the
430 species of North American dragonflies....

My reference to the relative stability of local names (relative to
technical names) in a recent overview of bee taxonomy was not ment to
suggest that local names are inherently stable or useful as an
operational element of formal taxonomy.  I don't think taxonomic
specialists should engage in coining local names or waste their time
trying to standardize local names.

The point I was trying to make involved the obvious utility of local
names - as a supplement for technical names - in *communication* among
specialists and and also between specialists and those with no
technical training.  This, in turn, relates to prior statements on
this topic suggesting that local names should be avoided in academic
discourse because they somehow lower scientific standards or whatever.

Local names often provide a useful link between formal classification
and the 'outside' world which includes students and interested
layfolk.  While it seems to me that the taxonomic community should
maximize this interface and thereby not get snobbish about local
names, I did not mean to suggest that local names have *functional*
value (relative to technical names) in formal systematics.

Hugh D. Wilson
Texas A&M University - Biology
h-wilson at (409-845-3354)

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