Vernacular concepts

Ron at Ron at
Tue Mar 1 19:03:56 CST 2005

That latin names can be intimidating to a significant sector of
human society may be unfortunate, and may even be "correctable" (e.g., kids
seem to be able to deal with latin names for dinosaurs without
difficulty) -- but is nevertheless undeniable reality of the present, and of
the historical past.

Well, I reject this categorically.  I didn't want to get into this but here
goes.   My 16 year old daughter gets freaked out at mice.  She has no
problems with snakes and fuzzy bugs crawling on her arms.  The reason is
simple - her mother got to her before I did on the mice.  (Mom has problems
with everything alive - except little dogs.)

The learning of, or comfortability with, scientific names has nothing to do
with some innate hardness to them.  It is a taught societal response.   Yes,
kids of all nations have no problems with dinosaur names.  The reasons are
simple.   1 No one has ever put it in their heads that those 10 syllable
scientific dinosaur names are tooooo hard, so don't try.  2) There are
virtually no common names available for them.   Godzilla, coca-cola, kiwi,
Mitsubishi, pizza and Rhinoceros do just fine multiculturally.

Not to offend, but I see Birders the world over as folks who just loveeee
those common names and seem to find every excuse possible to avoid
scientific names. Yes?   How about Coleopterists?  Bacteriologists?  Why the
different terminological choices?   IF people or hobbyist societies want to
use vernacular names, more power to them.  I use plenty of vernacular names
with Lepidoptera.   But let's not get into (once again) the cooked up notion
that scientific names are just  --  too damn hard.

Last I checked Latin is basically a dead language and is no more "natural"
to me as an way undereducated American than any other speaker.
Pronunciations?   Hey, when I get with other lepidopterists I often have no
way of knowing what they are referring to until I get them to spell it.
OHhhh!   Catacola!  But then again as a white US southerner I can't
understand my fellow black southerners half the time.   Many years ago (when
I was young) I liked to play basketball in the parks and city gym.  Sitting
on the sidelines this black fellow asked (axed) me several times.  " Waaa
immee yah got, man"   Finally, he very frustratedly grabbed my arm and took
a look at my watch..  Ahh, he was saying "What time you got, man".   How the
tongue rolls and lips form sounds differs greatly within all nations except
the most monolinguistic.  A friend went to England, he came back and said,
"I thought they spoke English over thar".

Lastly, since I am griping.  I often have the though that what lots of
people really want is not vernacular names but common names in _English_.
That is really my biggest complaint - and I'm an American!!!   If I was of
any other nation (from Tibet to Uganda to Chile) I'd get tired of "English
speakers" doing a book on the Whatevers of the World with all those
"English" vernacular names for my country - that we never heard of much less

Real vernacular names are the common names used by the farmers in what ever
country they are in.  Otherwise what we have are really only contrived and
"standardized" English terms for the world's biota.  Common or vernacular
names are like religion to me.  Keep em out of the classroom, lectures, and
text books and in the home and personal life where they belong.

Ron Gatrelle

PS  I always feel (A) badly because this group is posted in only English and
(B) always dumb because I can't speak any other language and (C) am
continually impressed with how well the rest of you write and read my native
tongue.   How did the dumbest people in the world get in charge (or at least
_think_ they are in charge)?

More information about the Taxacom mailing list