Re: Common Names

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Re: Common Names
From: Paul Taylor <>
Date: Sun, 09 Aug 1998 09:16:57 +1000
Syd Curtis wrote:
> "What's in a name? she sez."

"What's in a Name?  That which we call a Rose Robin
 By any other name would sound just as sweet."  :)
> Christidis and Boles - or rather their RAOU predecessors - performed a
> useful service in offering us a single preferred English name where a
> species had several names in common use.  But they did us a disservice in
> changing names where a single English name was in widespread use and no
> confusion could possibly arise from that use.  Changing "Crested Hawk" (an
> entirely apt name) to "Pacific Baza" is an example.

One of my biggest gripes with the new recommended names was the elimination
of some "scientific" names in favour of confusing English names.  Names like
Calamanthus and Hylacola have real character, whereas their replacements
"fieldwren" and "heathwren" seem arbitrary at best - I've yet to see a
Calamanthus in a field, but many in coastal heath.  (Do we even have "fields"
in Australia?  Surely "paddockwren" would be more appropriate.)  Fortunately
not all such names were changed - Gerygone was retained, thankfully - it's
alternative "warbler" presumably was deemed to cause confusion with the 
Old World warblers.  Names based on calls:  Warbler, Triller, Chiming,
Chirruping, Bellbird etc. are probably more arbitrary than those based
on habitat - e.g. "Singing" Honeyeater!

> Even more annoying is the ridiculous conversion of proper names to
> possessive's.  For more than a century, _Menura alberti_ had been known as
> the Albert Lyrebird.  Every reference to it in the literature that used an
> English name so designated it.  Then we are told to change it to Albert's
> Lyrebird.  Does that add any clarity to communication?  On the contrary!

As with the elimination of "scientific" names, the change to/from proper
and possessive names also seems arbitrary.  For example, Baudin's and
Carnaby's(?) Black-Cockatoos were changed to Long-billed and Short-billed
respectively, but Major Mitchell's Cockatoo (with the negative political
associations) was not changed to Pink Cockatoo.

The placement of hyphens and capitalisation is again inconsistent:
the general rule of capitalize both words and hyphenate is broken by
Night Heron, Stone-curlew and Native-hen.  Hyphenation is useful for
descriptions White-bellied, Slender-billed etc. and the "hybrid" names
Shrike-tit, Cuckoo-shrike etc. but is confusing or unnecessary otherwise.

Paul Taylor                                 Veni, vidi, tici -
                       I came, I saw, I ticked.

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU