Publishing convention re bird-names

To: "'Birding Aus'" <>
Subject: Publishing convention re bird-names
From: "Philip Veerman" <>
Date: Tue, 10 Apr 2012 17:52:31 +1000
Hi Richard,
My apologies for assuming you were making a point. I understand your
response about it being a genuine enquiry and fair enough too. I wonder
whether you will get a sensible answer. I hope you do, but I doubt it. I
would be interested too. I'm pretty sure the answer is laziness and
stupidity, or at the very least ignorance or non-concern that it causes
confusion and that there is a species concept (as John mentions, although to
really understand that is rather more complex, as his bit about the
car-struck eagle a few weeks ago and the discussion about identifying
albatross from sub species to species shows). Another issue is why is this
apparently only an issue with birds. For example some books on mammals
capitalise the first word of each use of a species name but not the second
word (like "Mountain gorilla"). That is just as silly.  
Things like "The NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (part of the Office
of Environment and Heritage) uses all lower case names (except where it
would otherwise be an upper case such as Lewin's, Gould's etc.)" result in
text that is so ugly to read. It can be hard to pick when they are
describing a species or a generality. So you get awful things like is a
"ground parrot" a "Ground Parrot", is a "singing honeyeater" a "Singing
Honeyeater" especially as they don't do that much, Australian raven gets a
capital & little raven does not. etc. Like your start point that "little
owl" is not "Little Owl".  One thing I am not sure about though: Is a silly
person a Galah or a galah or would the answer be different if Galah was not
definitely one species?
I believe it is laziness and stupidity in exactly the same way that misuse
(or non use) of an apostrophe is. Some people just say I don't know how to
use it so I will ignore it entirely. Then others remember it exists and
because of ignorance cause because others don't use it, put it in the wrong
place. Many publishers make the whole range of these mistakes. Many
publishers have no idea of the issue that a species name is different from a
descriptive word, in the way that a Mr Baker is different from a man who is
a baker, so they use a "convention" of laziness and stupidity to ignore it
and don't care about the confusion. Many publishers now ignore capital
letters on people's names too. 
On top of it all is the truth that language evolves anyway.
-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Nowotny  
Sent: Tuesday, 10 April 2012 3:50 PM
To: 'Philip Veerman'; 'Birding Aus'
Subject: RE: Publishing convention re bird-names

Interestingly Phillip I wasn't actually trying to make a point. I'm
genuinely interested in the origins of what is indeed an accepted/required
"convention" in much of the publishing world, decided by people who
presumably are neither lazy nor stupid, and presumably for a reason (or
reasons) which they consider to be sound - and which presumably they
consider outweigh the fairly obvious downsides of using this
non-capitilising convention. But what are these reasons?  R.



I agree entirely on your point. However I think it overly generous of you to
refer to this trend of ignoring the intelligence behind capitalisation as a
"convention". It is hardly deserving of that title. Unless you care to call
laziness and stupidity a "convention". Is it anything other than laziness
and stupidity?


Philip Veerman


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