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why scientists don't just give up the names battle

  • Subject: why scientists don't just give up the names battle
  • From: Lester Kallus <lkallus@earthlink.net>
  • Date: Sat, 7 Jul 2001 22:40:16 -0500 (CDT)

I'd like to offer a differing opinion on the common versus scientific 
name.  Professionally, I run into frustrations with bacteria names some of 
which are on their third name in the 21 years I've been 
working.  Nevertheless, I do this professionally and so can keep up with it 
as long as they tell me ahead of time.  Fortunately, the lay public doesn't 
use these names so there's no problem.  If they did, we might have to 
reevaluate our position on changing the names.

Periodically, I've read letters here indicating that some plant I had never 
heard of had been renamed to another genus that I also had never heard 
of.  This didn't affect me and won't affect most other folks.  There's no 
problem if few know about it.  It's the same as when a bacteria is renamed 
by the microbiological and medical community.  The problem does happen, 
though, when it's a plant that's commonly grown.

If the vast majority of people misidentify Pothos and only a small number 
of botanists and horticulturists can accurately identify them, how complex 
would it be to tell the botanists and horticulturists to find a new name 
for the true Pothos and to allow the previously misidentified Pothos to 
correctly assume the name?  I suspect it would be less complex to 
re-educate the botanists and horticulturists than it would the rest of the 
"uneducated" public.

Unfortunately, though, the botanists are too stubborn and insist that the 
rest of the world follow their lead.  Come on now - if it's been 
misidentified for 200 years and if few people would recognize the true 
Pothos - why not just change the name of the true Pothos and let everyone 
be right?  Could it possibly be people taking pleasure in calling others wrong?

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