[Taxacom] Herpetological Common Names

Robin Leech releech at telus.net
Sun Aug 2 12:23:50 CDT 2015


Hi Fred and others, 

Thanks indeed for a most enjoyable reply.  In science I recognize "Other-handed scientists"
You know, "On this hand, but then on the other...".  Humor is where you make it and find it.

It did not occur to me that a name, e.g., the Commo Twit, would have as the other side of 
the coin, "The rare Twit".  There cannot be a common twit without there being a rare one.

I have forwarded your reply to the A.A.S. Common Names Cttee.  I believe that you have touched 
on issues that had not yet occurred to us.  

Last night I had a reply from a birder, who sent me the AOU rules about English names.  In a 
second email, he forwarded one about name changes that occurred because of big concerns dealing 
political correctness.  Thus, Old Squaw (duck) became the Long-tailed Duck.  If you will recall, 
this silliness went into the names of football and baseball teams.  

Robin

-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Fred Schueler
Sent: August-02-15 10:28 AM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Herpetological Common Names

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 “Waterdog.”

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

fred.
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