[Taxacom] Objective synonyms?

Thomas G. Lammers lammers at uwosh.edu
Sat May 29 11:04:41 CDT 2010

I think that a lot of the confusion here is from the old problem of 
confusing classification and nomenclature.

This is why I prefer "homotypic synonym" to "nomenclatural synonym" or 
"objective synonym": it is clear what we mean: names based on the same 
type, which are irrevocably linked together, irrespective of anyone's 
opinion.   Lobelia graminea Lam. and Lobelia cardinalis subsp. graminea 
(Lam.) McVaugh ARE synonymous, based on the same type specimen.  You may 
have a subjective opinion as to whether that type specimen and specimens 
that conform to it should be treated as a subspecies of Lobelia cardinalis 
L. or accorded recognition as a distinct species, but there is NO opinion 
involved in saying that those two sobriquets apply to the same type specimen.

Part of the problem may be the negative CONNOTATION of synonym.  We 
commonly say things like, "Oh, that name is JUST A SYNONYM" or "That's not 
the correct name, it's JUST A SYNONYM."   But think about grammar, whence 
these terms come.  "Stupid" and "Idiotic" are synonyms, fide Roget's 
Thesaurus.  One is NOT the "correct" word and the other somehow 
inappropriate or lacking or erroneous.  Synonymy is a transitive relation 
ship if A is a synonym of B then logically, B is a synonym of A, i.e., they 
have the same status.

Thomas G. Lammers
Department of Biology and Microbiology
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

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