Vernacular concepts

David Remsen dremsen at MBL.EDU
Fri Feb 25 17:28:13 CST 2005

I am interested in different opinions on what might constitute a
"vernacular name" or "vernacular concept."  I heard some reference
during the "names" discussions that addressing the issue of vernacular
names would require a great deal of expert scrutiny and I can't quite
understand that.  It seems to me that while there are some groups and
attempts to regulate or create "official" lists of vernacular names for
a given purpose that this is really a subjective process independent of
a more broadly defined objective vernacular concept.

If I had to define a vernacular concept based on how I interpret what I
generally see it would be a "factual association resulting in an
implied equivalence between a Latinized 'scientific' name subject to
nomenclatural regulatory codes and some other alphanumeric encoding
that is NOT subject to these codes."  In other words, a pairing of a
common name with a scientfic name.   You see it in field guide,
checklists, in zoo and museum displays and a million other places.  I
can imagine these, therefore,  might be the context by which an
information consumer could sit down in front of a blank blinking
keyword entry box when looking for information.

This definition  distinguishes an identical vernacular string
associated with two different scientific name strings as two different
vernacular concepts.  Thus "bonito -  Katsuwonas pelamis" is  distinct
from "bonito - Sarda sarda."   On the other hand this definition would
also include ad-hoc usages including things like ITIS Taxonomic serial
numbers.  It would exclude isolated terms not linked to regulated names
as well as paired equivalencies between vernacular names ("bluefish,
known in France as tassergal", or "Chochuschuvio, (Hopi) - White Tailed

Is this definition too broad or too narrow?  Are there others?
David Remsen
uBio Project Developer
Marine Biological Laboratory
Woods Hole, MA 02543

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