Vernacular names

To: <>
Subject: Vernacular names
From: "Andrew Stafford" <>
Date: Tue, 11 Jun 2002 19:44:22 +1000
This is an old thread, but obviously still a compelling one for many of us.
I always find the arguments put forward about one name vs another
perplexingly illogical, but I say so while freely admitting I also refuse to
use many of the officially accepted names. For example I loathe Major
Mitchell's Cockatoo, but Pink Cockatoo isn't of much descriptive use when we
also have Galahs.

Terry Pacey's comment that "'A lot of work was done to arrive at the present
list of RENs in [Christidis &Boles], including getting members of bird clubs
to vote on many of them' simply shows that the majority of people,
non-birders, were ignored in the process" really made me cackle. With all
respect, Terry, you're not seriously suggesting Birds Australia should have
also surveyed the wider populace? Referendums don't have a good strike rate
in Australia and I suspect our pollies are too preoccupied with 101 Brutal
New Methods of Alien Incarceration to worry about debating whether a Jabiru
is the same as a Black-necked Stork.

I also find the cultural cringe argument misplaced. Surely it's because
early Australian ornithologists named birds IN RELATION to those they
already knew that we found ourselves lumped with names like Jabiru, King
Parrot and Wood Duck - names already used elsewhere. So now we have clumsy
and unimaginative abominations of over-qualification like Australian Wood
Duck and Australian King Parrot. Not to mention warblers and wrens. Attempts
to forge our own names for our own distinctive groups, like the maluridae,
have been slapped down as too "difficult" by traditionalists, although
somehow the gerygones survived.

The last ballot on this subject took place in 1992/3, if I recall correctly,
not 20-odd years ago as Michael Hunter wrongly states. So I don't think
we're overdue for another election that would probably deliver the same
results. Like a few other subjects that regularly do the rounds on
birding-aus, no amount of argument and counter-argument is likely to deliver
agreement. So in the meantime, just go on calling birds whatever you damn
well please, at least informally - if anyone looks confused, it'll only take
a few seconds to explain - and accept that there will always be diversity,
wonderful diversity.

No doubt there will be those who continue to call Babblers Yahoos, Happy
Families and Twelve Apostles. Let 'em. Anyone for Hall's Yahoo?

Cheers, AS

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