FW: [canberrabirds] Another new book of bird words: 'The Eponym Dictiona

To: <>
Subject: FW: [canberrabirds] Another new book of bird words: 'The Eponym Dictionary of Birds'
From: "Geoffrey Dabb" <>
Date: Mon, 21 Apr 2014 09:49:49 +1000

What is significant is not so much individual preferences, which can be expected to vary markedly, but the rules or conventions that are applied when a wholesale revision is taking place.  (There will be different opinions on whether such a revision is currently desirable or feasible.) 


In 1978, the RAOU committee whose recommendations are the basis of the present Australian names considered the issue at some length in its preliminary report published for discussion:  “In general we see no objection to eponymous names.  They are distinctive and no more useless, inappropriate or lacking in definition than such names as Song Thrush or Superb Lyrebird …”  The report also discussed the reasons for and against the possessive ‘s’.  Curiously the list of 28 recommended eponymous names omitted ‘King Parrot’.  Had they realised its proper character they would have certainly proposed ‘King’s Parrot’ and avoided ‘King-Parrot’.  However, they were concerned that ‘Brown Honeyeater’ might have commemorated a Robert Brown, but decided that was open to doubt, so did not change it.


The issue was also considered in the 2006 recommendations of yet another committee whose work underlies the current main international list of English names: “Many bird names include the names of persons, often discoverers or eminent ornithologists.  Using patronyms in bird names has been popular or unpopular over the years, depending on the tastes or principles of the namers.  The committee adopted a neutral stance.  There would be no bias for or against patronyms.  This had the effect of letting long usage largely govern these names, although the differing tastes and attitudes of the various committee members have played a role”.  That committee ruled” also:  “Patronyms are used in the possessive case …”


The use of ‘patronym’ rather than ‘eponym’ is curious, because ‘patronym’ refers to a father or ancestor.  Even with ‘eponym’ things can get tangled up. The older meaning was a person ‘who gives his name to a people, place or institution’.  There appears to be a shift in meaning because the primary meaning given in the large Macquarie is THE NAME, especially a place name, that is taken from a person;  thus ‘Melbourne’ or ‘Sydney’ would be eponyms.   Macquarie gives the secondary meaning as the person.  However Macquarie says that ‘eponymy’ is ‘the derivation of names from eponyms’.  Really?  What they mean is ‘the derivation of eponyms (first meaning) from eponyms (second meaning)’.  Otherwise ‘eponymy’ would be eg the naming of the ‘Sydney Swans’, the name being taken from ‘Sydney’ (an eponym in the preferred Macquarie sense).



From: Marty [
Sent: Monday, 21 April 2014 3:26 AM
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Another new book of bird words: 'The Eponym Dictionary of Birds'


Chiming in from the USA to completely agree with Philip. Here, as in Australia, large numbers of species were eponymously named by explorers/early naturalists. The practice has always seemed supremely arrogant and egotistical to me. Once in a while a serendipitous name was accidently given (e.g. Blackburnian Warbler), but most often it produced clunkers like Smith's Longspur, Le Conte's Sparrow and Vaux's Swift. I didn't realize until this thread that the Australian King-Parrot (which I've admired often at the ANBG) was named after somebody! I thought the name was given because it was so big and gorgeous. :)

Marty DeHart
Bon Aqua, TN, USA

On 4/19/2014 10:46 PM, Philip Veerman wrote:

I think the majority of eponymous bird names are awkward. They are also mostly biologically irrelevant and often expressions of colonial obsequiousness, especially if not named for someone who actually contributed. They still mostly contain the correct apostrophe use, although some names like Gouldian Finch (instead of Gould's Finch) by pass that. Though he named that for his wife. Eponymous place names now almost all do not retain the correct apostrophe use (e.g. Batemans Bay should surely be Bateman's Bay, or if that is not what it means, then Batemen Bay).  


The history appears convincing that Australian King-Parrot should be King’s Parrot but being a big parrot it really becomes so much easier to think of it as the latter and would look odd to call it the former, even though formerly more formally correct. As I see it, subsequent to that, the hyphen only makes sense on the basis that it takes King-Parrot as a group name, so as to include other species, not from Australia. As such, it abandons the original eponymous meaning of the name. As for King Vulture and no doubt several other species, surely they would be named for an impression of features of the creature (like King Penguin & Emperor Penguin), rather than eponymous reasons (a particular king or someone with that name).




-----Original Message-----
From: Geoffrey Dabb
Sent: Sunday, 20 April 2014 10:13 AM
To: m("","canberrabirds");">
Subject: FW: [canberrabirds] Another new book of bird words: 'The Eponym Dictionary of Birds'

After being labelled ‘Tabuan Parrot’ in Phillip’s Voyage (1789) and White’s Journal (1790), the bird was labelled ‘King’s Parrot’ in the notes that George Caley sent to Vigors and Horsfield for their work on Australian birds.  Caley also used ‘King Parrot’, apparently a reference to King in the same sense.  Caley had arrived in the colony with Governor King in April 1800 (4 months after JW Lewin) and left in 1810.  It is tempting to think that the pet King Parrot shown in Hunter’s sketchbook might have belonged to King (his fellow officer). However King was at Norfolk Island for nearly all his first two periods in Australia (1788-17900; 1791-1796). King succeeded Hunter as governor in September 1800, and himself returned to England in 1806.  It seems likely the term ‘King’s Parrot’ (or ‘King Parrot’) came into use between 1800 and 1806.




From: Denis Wilson [m("","peonyden");">]
Sent: Saturday, 19 April 2014 8:30 PM
To: David McDonald (personal)
Cc: CanberraBirds
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Another new book of bird words: 'The Eponym Dictionary of Birds'


I feel one of Geoffrey Dabb's lectures on the origin of the name King Parrot coming on.
Time for a refresher on that subject.



Denis Wilson

Are you amongst Greg Hunt's "increasingly hysterical environmental activists"?
If not, why not?
The Great Barrier Reef decision of 31 January 2014 is a travesty.

"The Nature of Robertson"


On Fri, Apr 18, 2014 at 10:03 AM, David McDonald (personal) <m("","david");" target="_blank">> wrote:

Beolens, B, Watkins, M & Grayson, M 2014, The eponym dictionary of birds, Christopher Helm, Exeter, England.
From publisher's website  :


Don't sweat the petty things, and don't pet the sweaty things. (George Carlin)
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