Vernacular concepts

Steve Manning sdmanning at ASUB.EDU
Tue Mar 1 12:29:47 CST 2005

I agree!  I am thinking of putting name identification tags on plants
around our campus and plan not to use anything but the scientific name on
those tags, contrary to the practice in arboreta and botanical gardens I
have seen in which vernacular names are given approximately equal
prominence with scientific names on the identification tags.  That way,
hopefully, I will not be contributing to the spread of disinformation when
vernacular and scientific concepts are not congruent.  I don't think most
people are intrinsically opposed to learning a scientific name - it's just
that most have been programmed the other way before we get to them!


At 03:31 PM 2/28/2005 -0700, Robin Leech wrote:
>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
>>of who, where, when and for what will be worse than useless, it will
>>endless confusion. There are already too many databases like that. I
>>spend too much of my time explaining to people why what they have read in
>>such a database is wrong.
>>Best, Paul

Dr. Steve Manning
Arkansas State University--Beebe
Mathematics and Science
Professor of Biology
P.O. Box 1000
Beebe, AR  72012
Phone: 501-882-8203
Fax: 501-882-4437

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