Value of 'naming'

Carmine Colacino colacino at VIOLET.BERKELEY.EDU
Tue Jul 16 15:20:43 CDT 1996

At 8:41 PM 7/12/96, Peter Rauch wrote:
>> Date: Fri, 12 Jul 1996 15:50:08 -0700
>> From: Carmine Colacino <colacino at>
>> If the aim is to teach a class to young children about nature why don't
>> just use the local "common" names?
>Depends on where one is teaching, among many other things. For example,
>how "local" is local? In many areas of the world, one needn't go too
>far to encounter second and third "common" names for an organism. If
>children come together, in class, from these several local areas,
>they'll each have the experience of their respective "common" names to
>deal with. In addition, even within a single "local" area, children
>and/or their parents very possibly can be immigrants into the area from
>another (possibly nearby) area.  Within this one area, then, several
>common names might be in use for a particular taxon (or referred to a
>similar taxon to one known back in the migrant's home ground). So, it's
>not quite so simple to use _the_ local common name. Resorting to _the_
>scientific name may appear to be the solution to this polyglot, but
>that's arguable (as we're doing).

Yes, of course, the "local_name"  will be different according to the "locality."
Still, you do not really want to consider all the possibilities you
mentioned above, do you? "Immigrants" can come from nearby localities (with
different vernacular names), but also from very distant ones, or even from
other Countries. 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.
More reasonably, the local names to be considered, I suppose, are those
used in the place where the school is located, or perhaps also those used
where "practical classes" (if any) are carried out. I think this would be
more realistic, and also more than enough.

>Why, for example, should one refer to an _Xus_ _yus_ immature female,
>when perhaps a one-word common name has been in traditional use and
>will suffice, ? (That's NOT asking the same question as "why should one
>be taught that this organism is an immature female of a scientifically
>recognized taxon called Xus yus", by the way; there are lots of good
>reasons to teach that information.)
>Or, maybe common names are "good" to retain because children's cultural
>(including environmental) heritages shouldn't be trashed? Even
>"standardized" common names tend to do that.

I agree on the conservation of "common names" on both practical and
cultural considerations, of course. I was just wondering on the need for a
standardization worldwide in scope (or perhaps even "National"), that
definitely would not help preserve "local" common names, and, moreover,
would not be "traditional" at all.



         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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