Spelling of vernacular names

Ron at Ron at
Thu Mar 3 17:03:12 CST 2005

----- Original Message -----
From: Edwards Jr, G.B.

To address Piotr's question, common names for arachnids only capitalize
proper nouns.  Common names are also restricted to 3 words (4 words if,
e.g., a country name consists of two words).  For example, Aphonopelma
chalcodes is the 'desert blond tarantula,' Aphonopelma hentzi is the
'Texas brown tarantula,' and Aphonopelma seemani is the 'Costa Rican
zebra tarantula.'

This is the general and widely accepted practice of the formalized systems.
Me, I just don't call an American Indian an American indian (my spell
checker doesn't even want to let me do it.)   So I view Eastern Tiger
Swallowtail the same way. (Also Black Panther and Black Forest - see Random
House dictionary.)  I don't capitalize ..swallowtails.  "There were Eastern,
Spicebush and Zebra swallowtails seen at the site".    It looks like a
personal choice to me, except where formally formatted as mentioned above.
But had a "committee" decided on Texas Brown Tarantula then that would have
been just as correct also.

Now to other matters.  This does illustrat a very important thing about
vernacular / common names compared to Latinized names.  In raw original
form, the common or vernacular names are simply without rules.  Once
organizations get hold of them, they become pseudo-scientific (substitute)
"official" names with a "standardized" formulation - without which they
"don't enter into usage".   Ultimately, this is why I object to the use of
common / vernacular names in any scientific forum, text book, paper etc.
Because it is a parallel, duplicative, (dare I say counterfeit) system to
Code regulated names.  Code compliant epithets structured relative to a
presumed evolutional taxonomic relationship.   I thus, see common /
vernacular names as ultimately a threat to _the real_ names of organisms.

As I stated before, I use common or vernacular names in my personal life and
hobbyist forums.  I like 'em in that context.  But I don't pay a whole lot
of attention to them outside of that and certainly do not rely on them for
the communication of technical information.   I am glad that pharmaceutical
products have to be prescribed in their technical scientific descriptives.
It is also why I bet that bacteria and other pathogens _never_ go the route
of "official vernacular names."   We can err in which rose or cedar we
have - but not which drug or which microbe might be present.  "Yup, it's the
plague.  No, not that plague, the other one, you know the Plague!".

Since scientific names are not hard to learn, why reinvent the wheel.   This
goes back to my "dumb" US Americans remark.  It's not that USA'ns _can't_
learn other languages, they just don't want to (I know plenty who refuse
to).  It's "too hard, too much troubbbbble."   If someone wants to live and
_function_ in another country, they need to learn the language.  It's
endemic to the functionality.     Those who want to _function_ in the realm
of invertebrates, birds, mammals, plants, whatever  (and esp. more refined
study) need to learn the [scientific] language - its endemic to the

This is undoubtedly a sore point with me as I have for some time been fed up
with the massive invasion of "Butterfliers" into the realm of lepidoptery in
the US over the last 20 years - and all their dumbed down vernacular, hyper
lumped and ignorant ways.   "We have to cater to them cause it's all tooooo
hard".   Then they need to take up sleeping as a hobby.

Ron Gatrelle

More information about the Taxacom mailing list