Value of 'naming'

Carmine Colacino colacino at VIOLET.BERKELEY.EDU
Thu Jul 18 15:58:36 CDT 1996

At 5:01 PM 7/16/96, Peter Rauch wrote:
>> Date: Tue, 16 Jul 1996 15:20:43 -0700
>> From: colacino at (Carmine Colacino)
>> Yes, of course, the "local_name"  will be different according to the
>> Still, you do not really want to consider all the possibilities you
>> mentioned above, do you?
>"All"? No. Not all. The several locally common or familiar ones? Probably.
>And, with respect to "standardized" versus colloquial/vernacular names,
>I think there is a place for discussion of each in the (same) curriculum.

That's right, you'll have to choose which "common/vernacular names" to use,
unless you do not want name each organism which several different names, I
do not think that would be a good idea in an introductory class.
Considering also that there are cases in which the same "common" name is
used for different organisms.
Regarding "standardization" of "common" names I just think it not to be
practically feasible, and of limited value whatsoever.

>>  Clearly to consider, as "local_names" vernacular names
>> from all the possible places of origins of the children in the class would
>> not make much sense, nor would it be desirable, I believe.
>Again, it depends on what the goals of the course are. If you are not
>simply trying to teach absolutes: "This is an X and it does Y.", but
>are also taking the opportunity to teach about variation, INCLUDING
>cultural, conceptual and perceptual variation, then highlighting the
>fact that different people have different names for the same things and
>the same names for different things (for what may be a variety of
>reasons) may well fit nicely into a course on Environment and Culture,
>or Environment and You, or Biodiversity --How Diverse Is It?, or ....

yes, it depends on what course/class you are teaching, if your aim is to
teach an introductory class on biological diversity, certainly it would be
nice to let the students be aware also of cultural diversity, even though
this wouldn't be the main aim of the class, I believe. Moreover, how many
"local" names are you willing to present? Even few names for every organism
considered would make the list endless. I think few examples related to
well-known organisms would make the point nicely without flooding the
students with a series of (mainly useless) names.
In conclusion, I think scientific names to be a "must" (they are the only
ones unambiguously determining of which organism we are talking about,
universally -- even though you may think it means to teach "absolutes") in
any class, introductory or not. In parallel, I think it would be nice to
introduce also "local-names", and let the students know that these last,
even though they locally match the scientific ones (but not always), have a
limited (geographically speaking) use/value. And here you could introduce
some "local-names", from other close-bye (or more distant)
geographic/cultural areas to make your point about cultural diversity.



         Dott. Carmine Colacino
         Dipartimento di biologia, difesa e b.a.
         Universita` della Basilicata
         85100 Potenza, Italy

         Tel.: +39 971 474172; Fax: +39 971 474256
         Internet: colacino at

         Temporary address in U.S.A.(from March '96 to Nov.'97):
         Dept. of Integrative Biology
         University of California
         Berkeley, CA 94720-2465

         Tel.: (510)643-9556; Fax: (510) 643-5390
         Internet: colacino at


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