Message 2004-10-0178: use of vernacular names

Sun, 17 Oct 2004 09:11:11 -0400

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Date: Sun, 17 Oct 2004 09:11:11 -0400
From: [unknown]
Subject: use of vernacular names

Jason Anderson wrote:
>>  Phil Cantino pointed out that use of the vernacular "tetrapod" ca=
>continue to
>>  refer to limbed vertebrates as workers wish with no problem in th=
e forme=3D

David Marjanovic wrote:

>Apart from being, I fear, hopelessly confusing, it could get us into=
>funny situations. For example... it could be illegal. If we tried to=
 fix th=3D
>meaning of "t=3DE9trapode", we would be usurping the job of the Acad=
>Fran=3DE7aise; I wouldn't be surprised if that were illegal in Franc=
>"Vernacular" doesn't only mean "English".
>         This example may or may not be a wild exaggeration, but sup=
pose we
>give *Tetrapoda* to the crown-group and establish "tetrapod" for a m=
ember o=3D
>the apomorphy-based clade. How will we then call a member of *Tetrap=
oda*? A
>"tetrapodan", perhaps? Apart from (again) being very confusing, and
>_perpetuating_ the mistakes neontologists often make in ascribing fe=
>of the crown-group to a larger clade, this couldn't be translated to=
>I'm not sure, but probably even translating it to French would lead =

I think David may have misunderstood what it was=3D20
that I suggested to Jason.  I was not proposing=3D20
that the PhyloCode (or any other code) fix the=3D20
meaning of vernacular names such as tetrapod.  My=3D20
understanding is that the vernacular names of=3D20
most kinds of organisms are not fixed by any=3D20
code, the English names of birds being an=3D20
exception.  I was not aware that the Academie=3D20
=3D46rancaise did this, so perhaps there are other=3D20
exceptions.  By and large, though, vernacular=3D20
names are not fixed and therefore can have=3D20
multiple meanings.

This ambiguity of vernacular names is generally=3D20
viewed as an undesirable attribute, but in this=3D20
case it may actually be helpful.  Someone (it may=3D20
have been Jason) pointed out to me that in=3D20
debates such as how to define Tetrapoda, what=3D20
people get most emotional about is not the=3D20
scientific name but the corresponding vernacular=3D20
name.  For example, the notion that four-limbed=3D20
vertebrates that lie outside the crown are not=3D20
"tetrapods" understandably upsets people.=3D20
However, if we continue to allow the vernacular=3D20
name "tetrapod" to be used freely as individual=3D20
people see fit, it can be applied to the crown or=3D20
the total group or anything in between, as=3D20
desired by the user.  If Tetrapoda is applied to=3D20
the crown, members of Pan-Tetrapoda could (and no=3D20
doubt would) be referred to as tetrapods.=3D20
Permitting this reduces the intensity of feeling=3D20
about which clade (crown, total, or=3D20
apomorphy-based) a particular scientific name is=3D20
applied to.  As long as the name in question is=3D20
the stem of the other name(s) concerned (e.g., as=3D20
Tetrapoda is the stem of Pan-Tetrapoda), the=3D20
corresponding vernacular name can be used for any=3D20
of the clades concerned.

I think this consideration is relevant to Jason's=3D20
concern about whether the application of widely=3D20
known names to crown clades will alienate people=3D20
who might otherwise adopt the PhyloCode.=3D20
Specialists whose own research has focused on the=3D20
name concerned will no doubt continue to harbor=3D20
strong feelings about how the name should be=3D20
applied, but I suspect that most others will=3D20
accept the decision with a shrug of the shoulders.


Philip D. Cantino
Professor and Associate Chair
Department of Environmental and Plant Biology
Ohio University
Athens, OH 45701-2979

Phone: (740) 593-1128; 593-1126
=3D46ax: (740) 593-1130


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