Gillett's Checkerspot

Anne Kilmer viceroy at
Fri Oct 27 11:13:11 EDT 2000

The word "common" has many meanings in English. 
In one sense, the phrase "common name" would mean the name used by
ordinary people, as opposed to the one used by experts (the scientific
Perhaps, if we could use the word "vernacular" rather than the word
"common," it would raise less ire among people who share the butterfly
but not the language. 
But "vernacular" is a cumbrous and ill-chanced word, and I do not see it
come trippingly to the tongue, even in these illustrious circles. 
If you chase it back to its roots, you come to the word "common" ... the
language of the people. 
Most of us post in English; a language we hold in common. (There's that
word again.) 
We agree, whenever we trudge through this swamp, that it is best to use
both the English and the scientific name when discussing a butterfly,
thus achieving a frail consensus on what bug we are actually talking
As, meanwhile, the splitters, the lumpers, and the writers of definitive
lists of "common names" are weaving a contentious and ever-changing web
(see the first lines of Dante's Inferno for a good description of our
path and where it leads) one hopes that at least one name will hold
steady long enough for us to pin it to its own butterfly. 
The savants of the United States have apparently agreed that the
ignorance of the majority should be allowed to shape the language. So
the words of the English language go sliding, hell-bent for oblivion,
led by the euphemisms. 
We have, however, a dunderheaded rule for scientific names, which we are
apparently attempting to extend to "common" names; that the first name
assigned to an organism is its name until Hell freezes over. 
(I'm still bitter about the loss of the brontosaurus.) 
So the scientific name of Gillett's checkerspot has to be spelled as the
first guy did it, whether it will please Gillett or not. And late rules
don't count. 
Or perhaps they do. Some of my best friends are taxonomists, and, after
all, I do want them to make a living. 
But I see no good reason to add an E to Gillett's name (nor to remove it
from mine, as so many of you do.)
Anne Kilmer
South Florida   

Niklas Wahlberg wrote:
> Hi,
> Ron Gatrelle wrote:
> > to hear the reasoning behind this. As I said before, what am I missing here?
> >     Kondla referred to this unknown party when he posted _a kind person has
> > pointed out that these [Gillette's & Gillett's] are actually English names
> > rather than common names. My response to this was a question about what did
> > I miss here -- I don't get it.
> The point is that there are many common names for many species, they
> happen to be in different languages. For instance, if I were to
> translate gillettii into Finnish, it would be gillettenverkkoperhonen.
> And the "e" at the end of gillett is purely gramatical. We have many
> common names in Finnish, but I would not presume to call the "common" on
> this international e-mail list. We have gone through this discussion
> several times and the consensus (I think) is that latin names are the
> way to go. I'm not the "kind person" in question, but I am quick to
> respond to people who think that English is the only language in the
> world.
> Cheers,
> Niklas
> --
> ________________________________________________________________________
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>    Metapopulation Research Group
>    Department of Ecology and Systematics
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