gochfeld at eohsi.rutgers.edu
Wed Jun 9 06:23:16 EDT 1999
The analogy to gardiners is useful but not perfect. After all the
gardiners have adopted the generic names of some or many plants as the
"common" names and are using the names in that way, not at all the way
lepidopterists use scientific names. Thus one may point proudly to a
Coreopsis, but if asked what kind they are more likely to give an
English varietal name than a scientific species name.
For a brief period in the 1960's (that rebellious period) when bird
watchers were just beginning to penetrate the Neotropics in large
numbers, there was an attempt to use the generic names as the epithet
for a group of birds. I remember specifically groups like Atlapetes. I
think we also tried to call some of the Foliage Gleaners, "Philydors"
and others "Automolus"*** to break up the long list designated as
"Foliage Gleaners" This served to help us learn the birds and also to
make it easier to develop names. We did learn the scientific names (not
very difficult when you're in your twenties), but that was more in
self-defense than for pleasure.
However, the death-knell to this "half-scientific-name" movement was
sounded by my good friend and colleague, the late Eugene Eisenmann, of
the American Museum of Natural History. Through his Checklist of Middle
American Birds and his contribution to Rudolph Meyer de Schauensee's
"orange book", an annotated checklist of South American birds, Gene
almost singlehandedly, gave "common" names to Neotropical birds. Many
of these "common" names were, of course, not common at all----unlike the
century old tradition for English butterflies.
Most subsequent books followed the names that Gene used. Later Jim
Clements developed a Checklist of Birds of the World that "standardized"
names worldwide. The fact that the names have changes in many cases in
subsequenbt editions, does call into question the term "standardized".
There are still a few cases where generic names correspond to common
names. I can think of the tanager genus Euphonia, members of which are
called Euphonias (but when I was learning neotropical birds the genus
was called Tanagra). The common name for the genus Diuca is
Diuca-Finch; the genus Cacicus is Caciques. In both cases I wonder
which came first.
***Note that Automolus above might be confused with Automolis, but not
if one called the first it a Foliage Gleaner.
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