Common names

Sean Edwards mzfses at MAIL1.MCC.AC.UK
Wed Jul 18 09:05:48 CDT 2001

Sorry about this apparently late posting -- I sent the following
posting yesterday (day before, American time) and still nothing has
appeared! It's a bit frustrating joining a conversation and your
words come in two days late, when the topic has moved on.

Carmine Colacino said:
> Even though these names could get somehow "stabilized" they still
> remains just English language names, often quite different from
> the common names used elsewhere in the word.
and Robin Leech said:
> Wouldn't a lot of the problems regarding common names in relation
> to a scientific name disappear if the common names for a species
> were given in as many languages as it is known to refer to the
> same scientific name?

Try the fabulous:
"Illustrated Polyglottic Dictionary of Plant Names, in Latin,
Arabic, Armenian, English, French, German, Italian and Turkish
Languages, including Economic, Medicinal, Poisonous and Ornamental
Plants and Common Weeds. 1,711 illustrations.. With a preface by W.
Lawrence Balls, MA, ScD, FRS. By Armenag K Bedeveian, Dip HA (Giza),
Senior Botanist, Botanical and Plant Breeding Section, Ministry of
Agriculture, Egypt. Cairo. Argus & Papazian Presses. 1936." (644
pages, plus 455 pages indexes, plus some pages in Arabic).


I almost always use scientific names myself, but I believe that
common names have their valued place.

Also, I agree with Zdenek Skála, in that common names can never be
truly international, for many reasons.

In "English names for British bryophytes (2nd edn.) British
Bryological Society special volume No 5. Cardiff (80 pages, 41,179
words, 1 figure, plus cover figure), 1999"* (which has accumulated
7,991 referrences to English Names for British Bryophytes) I said:
> "It is important to set out from the start, the geographical
> circumscription of any list of English names. The present list is
> intended only for the British Isles. It is clear that wider lists,
> especially any grand scheme for an English-speaking world list,
> are unworkable for five main reasons, at least if the names are
> ever to have common acceptability." . . . . . .
This is not the place to list the reasons, here, but I do consider
most of the general points that have been covered in the present
TAXACOM discussion, in the introductory 17 pages.


* P.S: Please forgive a bit of self publicity, but:
I do not have any stocks of the work, but I think that it is still
available from the:
     BBS Librarian Dr Ken Adams, Department of Life Sciences,
University of East London, Romford Road, London E15 4LZ

his email:
     k.j.adams at
and the BBS website page for ordering:

Sean R. Edwards BSc PhD,
Keeper of Botany,
The Manchester Museum, Manchester University, Manchester M13 9PL, UK
'Phone: +44 (0)161-275-2671/2; fax: +44 (0)161-275-2676
Email: sean.edwards at

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