A Puma by any other name

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at eohsi.rutgers.edu
Mon Apr 1 20:15:37 EST 2002

Fortunately this is a butterfly list. So we can finesse the issue of Mountain
Lion.  I think that the Mountain Lion probably represents the best example of a
species with very many well-known common names that compete for credibility.  But
sometimes the exception proves the rule.  James noted that there were probably
other names, and certainly Puma comes to mind.  I wouldn't want to have to make
the decision about Felis concolor. Walker's Mammals of the World uses "Cougar".
But this species is the example that comes to mind whenever I talk about a
species that is called many different things in different parts of its range. I
doubt that there are any butterflies that share this nomenclatorial fate.

Maybe the discussion isn't about "common names" at all, but about "official
English names" or maybe even "official American-English names", recognizing that
speakers of other languages aren't going to use our English names. That gets us
out of the bind of what names are "commonly" used.  Ron can then coin whatever he
feels he can get away with.

By the way, Gene Eisenmann of the AMNH, who assembled the first comprehensive
list of  Central American bird species, hated patronyms and went to great lengths
to contrive English names, hopefully descriptive, that were not based on a
person's name.  Not everyone applauded this effort, and one reviewer lamented the
passing of "Natterer's Chatterer" (doubly inappropriate since the cotingas don't

Mike Gochfeld

James Kruse wrote:=

> It is still winter here, so....
> But Mike, a common name _is_ a "common" name, using the definition of
> common, which thus should be inclusive of regional variants. Wisdom? Tell
> me, who is wise enough to choose the 'only' correct name from this list:
> Mountain lion
> Cougar
> Painter
> Panther
> Catamount
> \\(there are probably more, but you get it)



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