Vernacular concepts

Stephanie Bergamo sbergamo at PLANTBIO.UGA.EDU
Wed Mar 2 16:40:22 CST 2005


Hmmm. I have not yet ever replied to the TAXACOM listserv, and as I see, this reply seems to be going to you. Since time does not allow for looking further into this matter, I will extend to you thoughts regarding the reliability of vernacular names.

One example comes to mind: the vernacular name Bergamot. Some books consider this name to refer to Monarda spp. Others note that actually, M. didyma is Bergamot and, for example M. fistulosa is not. So if I mention Bergamot to someone, indeed, likely they will think in terms of Monarda, but which Monarda?

Thank you,


The reeds give way to the wind
....and give the wind a way.   (A.R.A.)

S. Bergamo, Ph.D.


----- Original Message -----
From: Robin Leech <releech at TELUSPLANET.NET>
Sent: Mon, 28 Feb 2005 17:31:54 -0500
Subject: Re: [TAXACOM] Vernacular concepts

> 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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