capitalizing vernacular [English] names

Karl Magnacca kmagnacca at WESLEYAN.EDU
Thu Mar 3 10:43:29 CST 2005

On 3 Mar 2005 at 13:30, Frederick W. Schueler wrote:
> It is perhaps significant that in North American zoology the main
> proponent of lower-casing names is the American Fisheries Society, with
> exploitation embedded in its name, while the main proponent of
> upper-casing species' names is the American Ornithologist's Union, the
> first advocates of a group of Animals to band together for their taxon's
> own sake.

"Proponent" of lower-casing?  Nothing except birds have their names
capitalized regularly, probably because the AOU and Audubon Society have
enough of a dominant influence that they can make it that way if they
want.  And also for the same reason Aves is retained as a class: people
think birds are super-special.

> The name of an historic individual is a proper noun, proper nouns are
> capitalized, therefore the names of taxa are capitalized.
> QED as far as I can tell, but I know this view is wildly unpopular in
> some circles.

You may be right in a strict grammatical sense; but since 1) as this
whole thread has been showing, there is no direct correlation between
many vernacular names and taxa, and 2) vernacular names (at least in
English) have never been capitalized, I don't think starting a big
movement for it makes much sense.  Honestly, is this really something
that makes any difference whatsoever except to people who care about
arguments whether species are individuals?

"Democracy used to be a good thing, but now it has
gotten into the wrong hands."   --Jesse Helms

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