"Logic escapes me"

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at eohsi.rutgers.edu
Mon Nov 6 21:22:21 EST 2000

Norbert's "logic escapes me" may be the answer in itself. I think that 
numerical taxonomists may have sought some logic in nomenclature. A few 
committees have likewise tried to achieve some uniformity and select 
"best" names (e.g. NABA's common name committee), but for the most part 
it's whimsy rather than logic that dictates names. Describers can name 
organisms after anything they want as long as they spell it according to 
certain rules. Like Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor), now that's clear, 
especially since there is a Lesser Frigatebird too.  

 Which is a segue into my pet peeve----why aren't species' common names 
treated as proper nouns can captalized.  When an adjective is part of 
the name (like Common Wood Nymph) it is often unclear whether the 
adjective is merely descriptive or part of the name.  This is much more 
of a problem with birds which are often referred to as little or greater 
or brown-headed or russet-tailed.  But since the species name 
distinguishes a specific individual species from among 15,000-20,000 
species, it merits capitalization. 

Mike Gochfeld


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