English Names

John Acorn janature at compusmart.ab.ca
Mon Jun 7 17:13:43 EDT 1999

Argumentum lepidoptorum continuum ad infinitum, so be it...

First, my apologies for thinking Andrew Torry was in Cornwall, when he was
in Portugal.  My mistake.  Glad it doesn't change my argument much (and yes,
it would be wrong to expect the Portugese to know the English names).  I
appreciate Andrew's point about the instability of scientific names in
Europe.  Has anyone counted the number of North American species that have
retained the same binomial for the last 30 years?  I'll bet its a sorry
minority (and don't count the ones that came back to the original name after
excursions in other directions!).

Isn't it odd that such minor matters can elicit such strong emotions?  That
is the challenge, for many of us, to keep perspective on these things.  For
decades, I have wondered how people who study butterflies-- symbols of peace
and beauty-- can be so unbeleivably argumentative.  Do we gravitate to
butterflies in order to couteract some deep-seated unrest in our psyches? 
Are we really more grumpy than other sorts of entomologists?  I have
certainly heard this view many times from people who subscribe to this list,
but on the other hand I have also heard that the Lep. Soc. meetings are
wonderfully cordial.  I guess I'll find out for myself at Sierra Vista.

I must comment on Norbert Kondla's response, to my observation that he is
typical of lepidopterists in feeling justified in rejecting English names
that others have worked hard to standardize.  He says "If sharing my ideas
and observations on the reality of human nature as this interacts with the
world of butterflies is viewed as an old attitude or a general problem then
so be it in the minds of those who hold that perspective."   I have some
sympathy for his views, but on the whole I still feel that the position he
advocates is problematic.  

It seems to me that neither Norbert nor any of the rest of us has access to
certain knowledge about "the reality of human nature."  Isn't this obvious? 
As well, since birders are also human, and do not share the problem, I can't
convince myself that the problem is inevitable.  And since I've opend this
can of worms, I should also point out that it is difficult to respond
politely to assertions that claim to be dealing in "reality," thereby
implying that others (i.e. my own) are not.   As well, no one likes to be
relegated to the junk pile of "so be it."  These are the sorts of sniper
shots that I feel typify leps-l, and that I suspect do much to suppress a
productive exchange of ideas.  Not everyone enjoys dodging the bullets, and
good people are staying quiet because of this.

Can we come back to my suggestion that accepting an official standardized
set of English names, and suppressing one's own ego and its desire to
second-guess, is the only way to strengthen a very weak part of the study of
Lepidoptera in North America.  As much as I considered it redundant when it
appeared, it is apparent to me that the NABA list has considerable momentum
now, and thus I am prepared to follow it, despite whatever emotional
reservations I may have.  I like to think that this makes me both mature,
and civilized.  

The people on this list are the people who make these things happen-- so
let's discuss it in earnest, and leave the personal feelings off to the

John Acorn

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