Kilmer on Common

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at
Sat Nov 4 06:57:55 EST 2000

I didn't get a chance to respond to Ann(e) Kilmer's elegant exposition 
on common names.  Joanna Burger (wife) and I dealt with this in our 
BUTTERFLIES OF NEW JERSEY BOOK, by separating "systematics", "taxonomy", 
"classification" and "nomenclature" as slightly overlapping but 
different endeavors.  

The notion that any rule of priority applies to common (or English or 
colloquial or vernacular) names is simply wrong (as Anne emphasized). It 
has never had any basis. We may choose to use that as a basis for coming 
to agreement on a common name (not everyone agrees that we need a single 
authoritative list of common names, but then again we certainly don't 
have it for scientific names since they are changed with every taxonomic 

I think that the NABA checklist exemplified that error in using the name 
"Southern Hairstreak" for the lumped Satyrium [Fixsenia] favonius. The 
subspecies S. ontario or Northern Hairstreak and S. favonius or Southern 
Hairstreak.  Because favonius had technical priority, its common name 
was likewise assigned to the species.  This was simply an error, 
resulting in confusion. Indeed, as hairstreaks go the species is not 
particularly southern or northern in its distribution.  When two species 
are lumped, it is reasonable to seek a more general name to describe the 
species as a whole (particularly in this case when neither common name 
was really good to begin with). 

On the other hand when NABA lumped the Olive and Juniper Hairstreaks, 
the scientific name of the former and common name of the latter were 

M. Gochfeld


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