gochfeld at eohsi.rutgers.edu
Wed Jun 2 18:54:50 EDT 1999
Matt Smith has set me up for my real pet peeve----why common names
should be capitalized (note that he capitalized them). Common names are
proper nouns in that they denote a specific entity. Style manuals
written by non-scientists are useless references in this regard. Some
style manuals are written by biomedical specialists---the same ones who
refer to The Rat and The Mouse and who aren't sure whether salamanders
are amphibians or reptiles or whether fish should be considered
Is a little blue heron, a small version of the great blue heron or is it
a distinct species. Perhaps a lay person would have a clue if Little
Blue Heron were capitalized.
Why should Erynnis horatius be treated as Horace's duskywing while E.
baptesiae is the wild indigo duskywing. Horace probably never saw this
species. Any common adjective (brown, little, etc) could easily be
confused as a modifier rather than part of a species name.
Ornithology journals capitalize avian species (but not plant
But Lep journals don't even give their target species this modicum of
respect. I suspect that its just entomology's way of saying we really
didn't want to give you common names anyway.
It's probably not the most important issue.
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