Going back to Tim Low's original thesis about making birds (and
therefore the biota in general) more interesting and accessible to the
punters, he made a very interesting and accurate observation - that
most Australians are completely disconnected from nature. I couldn't
agree more! The myth that we have in Australia an
outdoors/outback-orientated culture is clearly a load of old cobblers.
Most Australians live in cities or towns, and wouldn't recognise a
member of the indigenous biota if it stood up in their corn flakes! |
Following on from that though is that regardless of what the beasts are
called, they're still not particularly interested. Tim is talking
about codifying something which already exists informally across the
land. I always tailor my nomenclature to the audience I'm addressing.
"Pet" names and abbreviations (and rhyming slang names, etc.) do engage
people; but only if they're receptive to begin with, IMHO.
The debate here over the last day or so shows how vexed the issue of
standardised common names is - an almost oxymoronic concept to begin
with. Can't we just accept that there are basically three systems of
classification for the Australian avifauna:
All are appropriate for the varying groups who use them, and to some
extent are translatable amongst each other (let's keep cataloguing
them). Indigenous (Aboriginal) names fall into the third category, and
as local/regional terms (with gender, age, seasonal and totemic
qualifiers) are hardly likely to be spontaneously adopted as national
RENs - nor need they be. Derivative terms using compounded European
words (robin, thrush, shrike, etc.) are of course nonsensical
biologically - but still highly culturally relevant in this Anglo-Saxon
frontier society - they're also well and truly entrenched, and unlikely
to be rooted out by some new wave of ornithological inquisitions. The
logic of Pygmy-goose versus Whistling-Duck is of course a bit tortuous,
but as quasi-systematics tries to convey that Pygmy-geese aren't really
Geese, but Whistling-Ducks definitely are Ducks.
- scientific binomials - arbitrated by the international/national
- recommended English names (RENs) - recommended by the national
peak ornithological association (professionals and part-timers), and
- the various local, regional, state and community based
informal/vernacular names - managed by those who use them.
Publications like 'Emu', 'Corella' and 'Australian Field Ornithology'
mandate the use of the standardised names from the first two
categories. The third category is
alive and well in various locales across the country. Sounds like
diversity to me ... which can't be too bad a thing.
The system is working adequately at three levels, and therefore isn't
broken, and axiomatically doesn't need to be fixed!
My $0.20 worth ...
Ornithology & Terrestrial Ecology
Ecology Australia Pty. Ltd.
Flora and Fauna Consultants
88B Station Street
FAIRFIELD VIC 3078 Australia
Ph: (03) 9489 4191; Mob: (0419) 588 993
Fax: (03) 9481 7679
ABN 83 006 757 142