Common Names => Classification (utility) & species (uniqueidentifiers)

W.Wuster w.wuster at BANGOR.AC.UK
Tue Jul 17 09:28:01 CDT 2001

Jim Croft wrote:
> >D) and where common names don't exist, they can and should be derived from
> >scientific names (such as boa constrictor is both a scientific as well as
> >common english name).
> There is nothing that contributes to knowledge less than the invention of a
> common or vernacular name.  We have to accept that in many (most?) cases
> common names simply do not exist, simply because the organism is not
> common, or is otherwise uninteresting to common people, or there are so
> many species in the group that we just do not need to name them all.
> Deciding to call _Grammitis garrettii_, Garrett's Grammitis is a pure
> fabrication that contributes nothing.  Yet people have done this sort of
> thing for entire floras and cluttered the literature with a whole new
> useless suite of names.

One of the other consequences of simply anglicising scientific names is of
course that the vernacular name will become positively misleading if the
species concerned ever changes genus.

In the example above, what happens to the vernacular name if, for whatever
reason, _Grammitis garrettii_ becomes _Xus garrettii_? Do we stick with
"Garrett's Grammitis", as this is the "established vernacular name", and
thus end up confusing absolutely everybody due to the discrepancy, or do we
change the vernacular name to "Garrett's Xus" to follow scientific
nomenclature, and thus end up confusing absolutely everybody due to changes
in supposedly popular names?

Either way, simply anglicising scientific names in an attempt to create
stable vernacular names for public consumption or whatever other purpose
seems about the worst possible way of doing it.


Wolfgang Wuster

Dr. Wolfgang W├╝ster  -  Lecturer
School of Biological Sciences    Tel: +44 1248 382301
University of Wales              Fax: +44 1248 371644
Bangor LL57  2UW                 E-mail: w.wuster at
Wales, UK              

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