Vernacular concepts

Robin Leech releech at TELUSPLANET.NET
Mon Feb 28 15:31:54 CST 2005

The thing that makes a vernacular name reliable is the same thing
that makes a scientific name reliable - that everyone  who
uses the name, be it vernacular or scientific, has the same
organism in mind.
Robin Leech

----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul van Rijckevorsel" <dipteryx at FREELER.NL>
Sent: Monday, February 28, 2005 2:26 PM
Subject: Re: Vernacular concepts

> From: David Remsen <dremsen at MBL.EDU>
>> What makes one vernacular name more reliable than another?  Is it in
> the quality of associated data?  Is it the degree of ambiguity
> presented by the relationship of the string with other names?
>> Two weeks ago an MBL researcher wrote to me.  He isn't a taxonomist, he
> is a researcher on cytoskeleton structure.  He took exception to the
> use (within ITIS) of "green sea urchin" as a name for  Lytechinus
> variegatus when "everyone knows" that this is the "Bermuda urchin" and
> isn't green while the "real" green sea urchin is Strongylocentrotus
> droebachiensis.   All I could tell him is that is how it is.  If enough
> people refer to Lytechinus as the "green sea urchin" than green or not
> it joins droebachiensis as a vernacular concept.
>>   Of course all the collectors refer to droebachiensis  as "Strongy" but
> fortunately none of them actually write anything down.  New England
> fishermen refer to this species with such a colorful endearment that I
> cannot repeat it here but they all know what it refers to and depending
> on your notion of useful information, it could be the nomenclatural
> gateway to all sorts of interesting things.
>> The point is that questions of reliability, quality, and usage, like
> scientific names, are, in my opinion,  higher-order issues than simply
> accounting for their existence and this requires a broad vernacular
> concept definition.
> ***
> You do not need me to define reliability and quality, nor am I the most
> suited to discuss it. Describing the real work to be done as "higher-order
> issues" says little.
> It all comes down to the information you record in the database.
> Merely piling up names that "are out there" without recording exact
> details
> of who, where, when and for what will be worse than useless, it will
> create
> endless confusion. There are already too many databases like that. I
> already
> spend too much of my time explaining to people why what they have read in
> such a database is wrong.
> Best, Paul

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