Publishing convention re bird-names

To: Birding-aus <>
Subject: Publishing convention re bird-names
From: John Leonard <>
Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2012 07:21:09 +1000
"It reflects the historical thinking of a species that collectively doesn't
give a Rat's for other species." Yep, I think that's right.

John Leonard

ps Thinking about proper nouns and whether classes of things can be proper
nouns, what about the case of the Nimitz Class Aircraft Carriers, not the
nimitz class aircraft carriers (though I suppose Nimitz would have a
capital anyway).

pps Which leads me to another thought, apologies if anyone has already
pointed this out, if only "real" proper nouns have capitals, do we have
Lewin's rail v buff-banded rail, Albert's lyrebird v superb lyrebird?

On 11 April 2012 20:04, David James <> wrote:

> I think the issue is more historical than style manuals. Historically,
> species common names in English have not been considered to be proper
> nouns. This is evident in any dictionary, and dictionaries (originally)
> provided definitions based on the way words have been used throughout
> history. It is not a problem understanding a species concept. Everyone can
> tell the difference between a 'dog' and a 'cat', including the scholars who
> prepared the dictionaries. It is a lack of respect for species as
> important  things or 'Proper nouns'.
> Many people argue that species names are not proper nouns, and leave it
> there, as though that is a self-evident argument.
> A proper noun is a name that represents a unique entity. It seems to
> me entirely inconsistent that species names are not considered to be proper
> nouns by dictionaries and style manuals and so forth, but the following
> entities are:
> geographical localities, planets, corporations, institutions, roads,
> buildings, bridges, people, languages, cultures, food dishes, days of the
> week, months, holidays, festivals, wars, weather-events (e.g. cyclones),
> musical bands, diseases, books, documents, paintings, sculptures,
> religions, product brands, TV shows, web-pages....... You don't have a pet
> Dog called spot, you have a pet dog called Spot.
> Rather anthropomorphic, but not entirely. It reflects the historical
> thinking of a species that collectively doesn't give a Rat's for other
> species. Birders should know better.
> BTW, the RAOU (now called 'birdlife australia'?)  published a set of rules
> and list of 'Recommended English Names' for Australian birds in the Emu
> vol. 77 Supplement in 1977 that predates Parkes 1978 and sets the basis for
> the names in common use in Australia today.
> ==============================
> ________________________________
> From: Russ Lamb <>
> To: Birding-Aus Aus <>; Carl Clifford <
> >
> Cc: Sean Dooley <>
> Sent: Wednesday, 11 April 2012 9:21 AM
> Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Publishing convention re bird-names
> I believe Carl is correct in nominating style manuals as the source of the
> problem. There was a time when newspapers, publishing houses, government
> departments etc.each had their own "style guide" (note, "guide" not
> "manual") to assist internal authors with their publications. Increasingly
> however, guides have given way to manuals, and the dominant one is the
> Federal Government endorsed (propably too weak a description) publication
> "Style manual: for authors, editors, and publishers" 6th edition (2002),
> which appears to have influence in Australian publishing way beyond the
> Commonwealth Government's many agencies.This manual was (to quote from the
> Australian Government website) "revised for the Australian Government by a
> consortium of communication and publishing professionals" and "provides
> guidance and recommendations for anyone faced with the task of preparing
> material for publication in either print or electronic format".
> A quick glance at the members of this consortium reveals that they indeed
> are involved in the publishing industry, but of more interest to me was
> that only one (of at least 10)  appeared to come from an academic
> linguistics background.
> None of this answers the question posed by previous correspondents as to
> why previously capitalized bird species names are no longer capitalized,
> but the decision appears to be part of a broad momentum to make published
> works more accessible to all readers, regardless of intended audiences and
> well-established and logical linguistic conventions. It is, in effect, yet
> another example of "dumbing-down" and the oxymoronic statement of "one size
> fits all".
> I would be interested to hear what Sean Dooley, as editor of the old
> Wingspan and new Australian Birdlife, thinks of the reach of style manuals,
> and what guides him in publishing the magazine. (Interestingly I note in
> the first edition of the magazine that the front cover uses non-capitalized
> "birdlife", but the editorial refers to the magazine as " Australian
> Birdlife")
> Russ Lamb, Maleny,SEQ

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