ICBN too

Mary Barkworth Mary at BIOLOGY.USU.EDU
Sun Jul 15 13:06:55 CDT 2001

The other group of 'common name' users is that composed of people who
are interested in the entities themselves, not their relationship
(however interpreted) to other entities.  If I want to grow Scarlet
Gilia in my garden, or use it in my landscape business, I really do not
care whether it is called Ipomospis or Gilia, I just want to be able to
know what to look for in references.  Yes, this group probably overlaps
with those who do not care about how names are assigned and why they are
changed, but there is a reason for the 'do not care' attitude. And when
one lives in a country with officially recognized common names (such as
the US), then 'common names' may well be more stable than scientific
names.  Just look at the blasted Triticeae.  It does not seem to bother
English name users that wheatgrasses are simply the old Agropyron and
Ryegrasses the old Elymus.  Classification is irrelevant to a huge body
of people working with plants. Names are not irrelevant, but a stable,
recognized name is worth more than a less stable, less well-accepted


-----Original Message-----
From: Peter Stevens [mailto:peter.stevens at MOBOT.ORG]
Sent: Sunday, July 15, 2001 1:13 PM
Subject: Re: ICBN too

Interesting question, and maybe the answer is in our hands.

If you read Mark Barriow's excellent recent book "A Passion for birds:
American ornithology after Audubon", there was a period when the
names of birds seemed to be in flux, and so vernacular names became
And of course many birders today use vernacular names.  The same seems
be true of at least some groups interested in butterflies, as I found
recently talking to the president of a local group who goes out looking
butterflies.  And of course somewhat closer to home we find some
not bothering about families in (e.g.) ferns, because family limits are
flux.  If things change too much, the users who are interested largely
names of organisms and who are not participants in or caring about the
process of assigning those names (or even really understanding it) may
other options.

So the question is, why do we change names?  And the answer is not
because we use the ICBN or the ICZN, or even some sort of Phylocode.  We
change names for three classes of reasons.  One is because there are
'theoretical" issues involved; monophyly versus paraphyly, for instance.
The second is, some lump, some split.  The third can be independent of
first two and is application of the relevant code.

Peter S.  (I meant to send this to TAXACOM yesterday, but forgot that my
default is to send to the person from whom the message came).

>Is there really a
>"common-names-are-all-we-need-or-want" faction out
>there, significant enough that Taxacom members need to
>take note of it?
>At the time of the publication of the second editon of
>the American Fisheries Society's "Common and
>Scientific  Names of Aquatic Invertebrates from the
>United States and Canada:  Mollusks," I remarked
>somewhere that the common names might prove to be more
>stable over time than the scientific names.  This is
>because the choice of the AFS common names is vested
>in a committee, whereas the scientific names are based
>on applying the rules of the ICZN.  The code is
>algorithmic (as pointed out by Lindberg, D. 1999. The
>Veliger 42: 194-198), meaning it does not dictate the
>outcome in a particular case, but rather prescribes a
>set of rules which, if followed, guarantee an outcome
>regardless of who is performing the operation.  Both
>systems have their strengths and their applications;
>it is not a one-or-the-other situation.
>Barry Roth
>--- Ron Gatrelle <gatrelle at TILS-TTR.ORG> wrote:
>> No disrespect to the ICBN or others. My accompaning
>> post today is a cross
>> post from a butterfly list serve.  As it had to do
>> with taxonomy I though I
>> would post it here too. SO, "we" can add ICBN to
>> this as an equally
>> challenged system by the
>> common-names-are-all-we-need-or-want crowd among
>> the masses.
>> Ron
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