BIRDING-AUS~~Vernacular names~~Hugo I take umbridge

To: Hugo Phillipps <>
Subject: BIRDING-AUS~~Vernacular names~~Hugo I take umbridge
From: Penn Gwynne <>
Date: Tue, 11 Jun 2002 01:40:58 -0700 (PDT)
G'day All,

John A. Gamblin here and I'd like to debate Cere
last paragraph in his fine reply to Syd Curtis re"
Vernacular names" and his pearls of wisdom.

Hugo said:
"That the issue continues to generate such heat says
something about human psychology - and maybe sometimes
about birding politics - but the birds don't care!

I wouldn't be to sure about that Cere Hugo? re: birds
don't care about what they are cawled? I know of a
certain little bird that if I cawl her "Magpie mouth"
it's on for young and olde between us, whereas if I
cawl her by her Latin name whilst we are sat on the
couch together then she gives me a cooo and a
twardling enough to melt any male heart.

Although when "Eggy" was young she spent 20 minutes
looking at the orange juice can because it said
"concentrate" I don't think she's uninteligent?
do you? and she most certainly cares about what she is
cawled? especially if it's late for her cup of "billy
Lee". I must admit though that Kevin the Kookaburra,
another I helped a long while back, when he lived with
me, he didn't care as much as she does but then he was
a bomber supporter so???

I just think it is highly debatable wheter or not
birds care about what they are called? my dear young
fellow. I do take umbridges at this statement of

Sinned Cere Lee,
John A. Gamblin,
Potters off to shave another nestbox whilst smiling at
the world cup results, Nelson never forgets ~:^D>>>.
(What French? I see no French.)
Hugo Phillipps <>

Hi Syd -

At 10:47 PM 10/06/02 +1000, you wrote:
When there is a common name in common use in
and a different common name for the same species
elsewhere, is there any reason other than Australia's
all too common cultural cringe, why we should change
to conform to some other community's usage?

A misconception is that birds generally have two
principal name categories - the scientific and the
'common'.  The reality is (at least with English
language speakers) that there are THREE categories,
the scientific, the standard (or recommended) English
name, and the vernacular or local name (of which there
may be many). Sometimes the standard and vernacular
the same, sometimes not. The functions of these
categories are different:

Scientific names reflect current taxonomy and may
change with taxonomic reexamination. Despite some
people believing that they are the most fundamental or
'official' names, they are mutable and likely to
continue so. Recommended English Names (RENs - with
regard to Australian birds, those published in
Christidis & Boles, The Taxonomy and Species of Birds
of Australia and its Territories, 1994 (C&B)) are
intended to confer stability and provide a standard 
that is recognised internationally - so, for example,
a birder from Canada, a zoologist from South Africa, a
town planner from Tasmania and a conservation activist
from Kalgoorlie can talk to one another about birds
and not be confused. I don't know if there are
equivalents of RENS in other languages, but there
probably should be for the main international
languages at least. The main requirements of a REN
are stability and commonality of usage. I personally
dislike many RENs for aesthetic or sentimental
reasons, but my prejudices are utterly irrelevant
> to their function. Vernacular names. Yes, Syd, call
the birds whatever you like. You DON'T have to
conform. If you are with people who understand those
particular pet, local or historical names, there is no
problem. However, vernaculars are not set in stone;
many Aboriginal names have disappeared from popular
usage - and so have many which were used by European
settlers last century. Vernaculars with restricted
usage are great for local newsletters, poetry,
word-games, historical research and many other
purposes.  They are not so good for national and
international journals and listservers.

Much prejudice about what names we should use seems to
stem from, firstly, confusion about the different
functions of RENs and vernaculars (e.g. by lumping
them as 'common' names and, secondly, from sentiment
that the names WE grew up with, and feel warm and
fuzzy about, should be the ones that EVERYBODY should
use. Since RENs were derived from vernacular names, we
want OUR vernacular names to have been the ones
chosen. In the same way you can get birders in a
particular state feeling that they 'own' the birds
of that state (especially the endemics) and resent
'outsiders' calling the birds by different names.

A lot of work was done to arrive at the present list
of RENs in C&B, including getting members of bird
clubs to vote on many of them. The process was
transparent and about as democratic as possible in the
circumstances. The introduction to C&B covers the
reasoning behind the decisions and is essential
reading for anyone wishing to explore the arguments

That the issue continues to generate such heat says
something about human psychology - and maybe sometimes
about birding politics - but the birds don't care!

Hugo Phillipps
Communications Coordinator
Birds Australia
415 Riversdale Road
HAWTHORN EAST 3123, Australia
Tel: (03) 9882 2622, fax: (03) 9882 2677
Email: <>
Website: <>

Are you a member of Birds Australia?  If not, why not
join us?

Birding-Aus is on the Web at

To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the
"unsubscribe birding-aus" (no quotes, no Subject line)

Do You Yahoo!?
Yahoo! - Official partner of 2002 FIFA World Cup
Birding-Aus is on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message
"unsubscribe birding-aus" (no quotes, no Subject line)

<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