NANFA-- common names (was pikeminnow)

Christopher Scharpf (
Mon, 08 Jan 2001 09:18:23 -0400

Jay had asked about the value of common names in a recent series of posts on the
common name of Ptychocheilus.

Here are some thoughts from Joeseph Nelson (via Fritz Rohde). Joe is the author
of the classic FISHES OF THE WORLD and the chairman of the AFS/ASIH Names of
Fishes Committee.

"COMMON NAMES . . . Here is one place I & generally others on committee strongly
agree with our committee ancestors! & bless you Peggy Shute! We believe that
they should as far as possible be stable (be unchanging). This is unlike
scientific names which should reflect the latest thinking (hence we have
Oncorhynchus mykiss, not Salmo gairdneri) but wow we still thank goodness have
the name rainbow trout (those wanting brook charr I suppose might prefer Pacific
rainbow salmon) .... Yes, common names may well not agree with cladistic
relations or accurately describe their color/morphology (but in my opinion that
is not their job, that is the job of scientific names & descriptions (common
names are to ensure you & I can communicate with ourselves & the general public
over a time span that is longer than that of scientific names (otherwise, why
not drop common names?).

Christopher Scharpf

"The secret of life is to have a task....And the most important thing is -- it
must be something you cannot possibly do!"
Henry Moore, sculptor

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