capitalizing vernacular [English] names

Edwards Jr, G.B. edwardg at DOACS.STATE.FL.US
Fri Mar 4 08:26:35 CST 2005

First, I still agree with Karl.
Second, I refuse to get involved in an individual is a species argument.
Third, my comment about German nouns being capitalized was comparative,
not anti-German.  I'm offended that my name would be linked to anything
discriminatory against any nationality or race (my wife is a Chinese

G. B. Edwards, Ph.D.  [Your Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman] 
Curator: Arachnida (except Acari), Myriapoda, Terrestrial Crustacea,
Florida State Collection of Arthropods, FDACS, Division of Plant
P.O.Box 147100, 1911 SW 34th St., Gainesville, FL 32614-7100 USA 
(352) 372-3505 x194; fax (352) 334-0737; edwardg at 

-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom Discussion List [mailto:TAXACOM at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU] On
Behalf Of Karl Magnacca
Sent: Thursday, March 03, 2005 11:06 PM
Subject: Re: [TAXACOM] capitalizing vernacular [English] names

On 3 Mar 2005 at 19:01, Frederick W. Schueler wrote:
> Karl Magnacca wrote:
> > 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
> * it's not necessarily an offense for ornithologists to be right about
> something (is it?),

As an entomologist, it's deeply offensive to me :-)

Anyway, my point was that it doesn't matter whether they are right or
wrong; it just gets done because somebody decided it should be that way
in all the books.

> and capitalizing the names of species isn't that rare - the names of
> Amphibians and reptiles are capitalized in North America

Not that often.  A quick search on the California red-legged frog found
it capitalized only about a quarter to a third of the time.

> * maybe the question is whether the conclusions of systematics and
> philosophy are important enough to export into the vernacular? My
> is that it is important for conservation that species and other taxa
> recognized as historic individuals, and that capitalization can
> contribute to the sense that they're distinctive and important

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree then, because I don't think it
will do squat for conservation.

> But I'm not advocating changing the rules of English, just following
> the rules employed for human individuals and institutions when they
> apply to taxa.

But that is changing the rules, because names of organisms were not
previously capitalized.  Grammatical rules are not consistent; that's
why Esperanto was invented.

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

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