[Taxacom] Herpetological Common Names

Fred Schueler bckcdb at istar.ca
Sun Aug 2 11:27:36 CDT 2015

Quoting Robin Leech <releech at telus.net>:

> I am on the Amer. Arach. Soc. Common Names Cttee, and am interested  
> in knowing how those who specialize in other groups of animals (and  
> plants, for that matter) deal with issues related to establishing  
> new common names.

> We do not want to invent new wheels, so I am asking  what sorts of  
> rules, formats and procedures you follow with regard to establishng,  
> using, or even deleting common names.

* ah, there has been turmoil in herp common names for herps in both  
French and English. Isabelle Picard <mollusc at ca.inter.net> may be able  
to advise about the situation in French.

One nice rule formerly observed herpetologically is that -ed isn't  
used for a single structure: thus "Redbelly Snake" but "Two-lined  
Salamander." Ron Brooks is currently campaigning against "Common" in a  
common name, on the grounds that abundance isn't an attribute of the  
species itself.

Some items from my idiosyncratic dictionary:

“There are no common names for the frogs of the genus Pseudacris,”  
(Charles F. Walker. 1946. The Amphibians of Ohio. Part I, the Frogs  
and Toads. Ohio State Museum Science Bulletin 1(3)).The ‘name' of a  
species is its Name under the applicable code of nomenclature, and  
there are no grounds for fabricating ‘common' names that do not have a  
vernacular origin. Vernacular names are to be collected by the  
naturalist, not invented, especially if the invented 'common' name is  
a vapid restating of the species' Name.  In Ontario, the English name  
of Elaphe vulpina is ‘Whomper' or ‘Swamp Whomper:' ‘Fox Snake' is a  
pitiful translation of the Name, redolent of incomplete and  
half‑assimilated book‑learning.  Since Walker wrote, the  
blight he implied has reached epidemic proportions with the insistence  
of field guide publishers and government agencies that every species  
be decorated with an English name.  Extreme examples of this can be  
found among Fungi, where many mushroom‑fruiting species were  
called only by their Names until publishers insisted on made‑up  
English names: even if it's the ‘Forest Friend' in one book, and the  
‘Oak‑loving Collybia' in another for what everybody used to  
happily denominate Collybia dryophila.

wild flower, wildlife, Wild Rice, etc. These anthropocentric names  
assert the primacy of domesticated lineages, and are not used in  
ecocentric discourse. An extreme case of this domestic‑centred  
naming is Calla palustris, which because of superficial similarity  
gave the name 'Calla Lily' to the exotic Zantedeschia or Pig Lily  
(properly Piglily, see Do Dragons fly?) of commerce. As a result of  
popular familiarity with this exotic, Calla palustris is sometimes  
retro-designated the "Wild Calla." The adjective 'wild' is correctly  
applied only to the feral descendants of previously domesticated  
lineages (e.g. 'wild Apple').

Do Dragons fly? In forming English names from an adjective and the  
name of an analogous taxon (i.e., of which the named group is not a  
member), join the adjective and wrong‑taxon name as a single  
word, but if the named group is a member of the larger taxon, use  
separate words, as noun and adjective.  Thus "Dragonfly" versus “Horse  
Fly” and (contra traditional herpetological usage) "Bull Frog," &  
(contra herpeto-vernacular innovation) "Ribbon Snake," versus  

More ranting about forming English names at http://pinicola.ca/m1999b.htm

           Frederick W. Schueler & Aleta Karstad
       Mudpuppy Night - http://pinicola.ca/mudpup1.htm
Vulnerable Watersheds - http://vulnerablewaters.blogspot.ca/
     study our books - http://pinicola.ca/books/index.htm
           RR#2 Bishops Mills, Ontario, Canada K0G 1T0
    on the Smiths Falls Limestone Plain 44* 52'N 75* 42'W
     (613)258-3107 <bckcdb at istar.ca> http://pinicola.ca/
"[The] two fundamental steps of scientific thought - the conjecture  
and refutation of Popper - have little place in the usual conception  
of intelligence. If something is to be dismissed as inadequate, it is  
surely not Darwin [, whose] works manifest the activity of a mind  
seeking for wisdom, a value which conventional philosophy has largely  
abandoned." Ghiselen, 1969. Triumph of the Darwinian Method, p 237.

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