Names and naming

Andrew Whittington aew at NMS.AC.UK
Thu Jul 25 09:14:21 CDT 1996

On Wed, 24 Jul 1996, Richard Jensen wrote:

> Hugh Wilson has a good point - scientific names are often less stable
> than common names.  Despite the fact that Nuttall's oak is now
> Quercus texana, displacing the former binomial Quercus nuttallii, it is
> still know as Nuttall's oak!  I'm sure there are numerous other examples
> in which common names have displayed greater stability than scientific names.

And yet there are probably more cases in which two species are confused
by the use of similar common names, or in which the common name for a
particular species in one region differs from the common name of the same
species in a neighbouring or more distant region.

Robin Panza's  "I work with S. cerevisiae.  Don't ask me what the S
stands for.  I don't know and I don't care." example merely shows the
short sightedness of certain non-taxonomists.  As for using the generic
name Drosophila, when meaning just a single species of this family of 4000+

I go along with Robin: We need to educate the educators at least as much
as the students.  Perhaps we could add to that list the politicians and
high financiers of the world in the hope of carving out more support for
taxonomy.  For goodness sake lets not confuse the world more by
producing a whole new set of names (ie. common names) - don't we
have enough work to do? Rather let us attempt to find taxonomic stability
within the system that we already have.

Andy Whittington
National Museums of Scotland
Chambers Street
Edinburgh, EH1 1JF
DDI: 0131 247 4261
FAX:  0131 220 4819
aew at

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