Scientific names in italics in ID remarks and comments

Yes, but this is the whole problem. When learning moths you have to learn a bunch of names as that is the nature of the beast. That is a given. So if the guides just provide just scientific names, those are the ones that will be learned and there will be no communication barrier going forward, for anyone on the planet because they won’t be forced to learn an English common name to go along with any of the “alternate” English common names and names in other languages. It makes learning moths far easier. Provide common names for select common and charismatic species (Luna Moth, Great Ash Sphinx, Sweetheart Underwing). They will never go away and don’t need to. There is no need to put a cheesey common name on every Olethreutes micromoth in the U.S., for example. It already has a name!

I think you are misrepresenting scientists too, as we all are quite familiar with common names, and will use the common names when around laypersons as much as we can. Scientists will revert back to the Latinized name because they are far superior and easy to communicate to other scientists. For groups with hundreds of closely related species, it is really the only way to communicate taxonomy

Now this claim is problematic, and is actually one of the claims that propagates the “phobia” for Latinized names. I have no clue why you’d come to this conclusion as to the intent of Linneaan taxonomy. Scientists DO NOT use these names to be smug or elitist at all. It is a consistent form of taxonomic nomenclature to allow efficient and precise communication on what you are talking about. That’s all it is. The names require exposure and usage to get used to, but there is no gatekeeper in place or elitism intended. If Latin was still spoken like French or Chinese you could argue that they would be a “common name” for a Latin speaker. The Latin names are accessible to all.

You state this like this is a good thing? One bird name referring to ten species now being reduced to 2 or three names referring to one species? And how is it easier to operate between regions if one species in region 1 has a completely different name from region 2 or region 3? Why not just call them by their single Latin name? Isn’t that easier to remember than 5 common names?

[quote=“marina_gorbunova, post:86, topic:33567”]
And iNat usually has only one name assigned, and it’s much easier to remember than latin, because it actually means something for person who reads it.[/quote]
This requires a change in perception. For the vast majority of species on Earth the Latin name is not any harder to remember than a common name. The Latin name to someone familiar with them means just as much, if not more, than a common name. “Turdus migratorius” has exactly the same meaning as “American Robin” if you ignore the emotional attachment one has to the latter. Taxonomists literally get the same picture in their mind if you use either name for the bird.

Let’s count the ways:
Quercus rubra = Red Oak… they say the same thing and mean the same thing
Linophryne arborifera has no common name and doesn’t need one… the Latin name is descriptive enough if you look into the etymology. Coming up with alternate names for the dozens of species of Linophryne is not going to help differentiate them anymore than the Latin name does. They all have quite similar morphology. Saying “Tree-barbeled Leftvent Netdevil” is both harder to learn and more cumbersome than the Latin name.
Caloptilia bimaculatella = Maple Caloptilia Moth… what’s the point? You are already saying “Caloptilia” and “bimaculatella” means two spots which is useful for ID. An adult moth with no affinity for Maple is not as useful. and if you are communicating one of 5 small moths you have spotted at your sheet, how would saying the common names actually broadcast you are seeing 5 species of the same genus versus 5 completely different moths? Saying “I see Caloptilia bimaculella, C. packardella, and C. superbifrontella” conveys more information, especially if one of these lacks a common name.

No one is forcing anyone to do anything, but there is a good reason that people developed and use the current taxonomic scheme. Latin names are not and should not be scary to use.

3 Likes

For sure there’re different scientists, but I spent quite some time on lep-forums and it’s what users there always write, how they hate common names as if they personally attacked them in the past, using common names doesn’t mean denying Latin names either, e.g, I can write Phylloscopus trochilus, but see no reason to ever use it as I can use пеночка-весничка/весничка or Willow Warbler instead, or look up different common names, but for groups where I don’t spend days reading Latin names, I would rather learn two-three words in my language that I can use on iNat later. Thing is scientists always look down on someone who doesn’t know Latin names, e.g. last week I read a discussion about common names of two moths, and one of comments said “for those who don’t know Latin those moths are the same, others use Latin, so who cares if name is wrongly added to the species”, how’s that not a classist approach? Those were easily distinguished moths and I don’t need to know their names for that, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who can see that without deep knowledge. They always mention how using common names is ok for newbies, how we should tolerate it “for regular person”, as if learning words in a dead language makes you completely different person and not acually researching it. I can’t mention all cases of that, because I try not to go in those circles of the Internet as it upsets me with how they divide community.

3 Likes

I think it’s unfortunate that you’ve had that experience with scientists online. I think that is the fault of that particular scientist to shame anyone for not knowing all the names. But this shaming can pertain to any label, whether it be Russian, English, or Latin, so I still don’t get how the criticism only applies to the scientific name?

There is no one who should be shamed for using their common name for any creature they want, but the issue is that that common name does not have the consistent nature of the Latinized one, especially for communication across cultures and languages, and among researchers. It may come across as “elitist” but it’s no more elitist than a group of mechanics talking about the types of fuel injectors or a group of doctors talking about fixing a “disarticulated distal segment of the apophysis”. All niche fields have their jargon and it’s unfair to call them classist or elitist if you aren’t part of that group.

I will never shame a person for using a common name but I still favor exposure of all people getting into taxonomy to the proper scientific nomenclature, because that is why the system was introduced. It is also far easier than learning extra names. Plus if they are communicating on very specific clades that they encounter, the experts that they need to interface with to ID them will have no clue what they are talking about. Fellow laypersons are going to have trouble learning both common and scientific names at first, so why not have the whole world use the same standardized naming scheme. That’s why I push so hard for the Latin names, because that is the system that can work for everyone.

3 Likes

I fear this has gone way far off-topic so I apologize if people want to hear about italics or not

4 Likes

The “warbler” and “sparrow” brings up another good point about common names vs Latin names. A lot of the common names pay no attention to relationships and harken back to the old creationist notion of “kinds” of animals. So “finch” has been used for any bird that vaguely looks like a “finch”, whatever that is. However now we know that “finch” is not a natural grouping of organism referring to a species or a genus or even family (if we go by common names).

The advantage of the Latin scheme is that by the name alone you know which species are related to each other and which aren’t. The nested schemes also make learning the groups easier because you group them into smaller categories. So instead of learning “sphinx moths” as a whole which may be overwhelming, you can learn the different genera of sphinx separately, and their Latin names conveniently tell you the identity and illustrate the general morphology of all these sub-groups of sphinxes. And I don’t think Smerinthus jamaicensis is any harder to say than “Small-eyed sphinx Moth” , although the Latin name is certainly less accurate a descriptor! The Smerinthus sphinx moths certainly all have a unique appearance though that separates them from other genera, and the common name would never indicate relationship.

Now if you are already know and use the common name, that shouldn’t be used to shame you or belittle your knowledge, but you can expect a lot of moth people will ask you “what is that again?”.

1 Like

Insofar as reading and writing goes, scientific names are good at avoiding ambiguity and can make it easier to communicate.

However, I’m not sure this necessarily holds true when speaking. From Where Do I Start With Pronouncing Scientific Names?, it’s clear that there’s not a single way to say the scientific name.

In my experience, this leads to a back-and-forth where both people say the name to see if they agree what’s being talked about, sometimes more than once, to the point that it’s sometimes easier to point out the spelling from a book or iNat taxa page.

Granted, I’m an amateur so maybe I’m really messing up the pronunciation. :sweat_smile:

1 Like

My first answer was for “hate common names”, I habe nothing against taxononic nomenclature.)
About warblers, here they have separate names and most fit taxonomy, with maybe current Curruca and Sylvia having the same genus name - славка, but they belong to one family, so it’s ok, I was really surprised when I learnt English names, but if it works for those people,aybe it’s ok. Another example of not fitting names, many erebids still have name of noctuid - совка, but it’s a modern view to assign common names to families and expect this name to be of this one particular family only. In the end, if you understand what name means, it’s enough.

2 Likes

Yeah I see pronunciation as the hardest thing about scientific names. I tend to be forgiving. For example so many people say Katto-kalla for Catocala instead of Cat-Ock-alla but at least you can follow what they mean.

2 Likes

Yeah, the common names don’t catch up fast. I see many Hypena as “Bomolochas” in field guides.

Having never formally studied botany or zoology I was not aware of the italicization convention. I struggle already getting the spellings correct, even for species I identify regularly the endings always seem to have an unexpected twist for me. However, I do identification of one genus around the world, and the common names vary even among English speaking countries, so I make it a habit to use the botanical names.

I must admit that even knowing the convention, I do not intend to italicize. I am trying to get through a huge backlog from past years, while going through up to 300 new entries each day looking for errors so egregious that I can spot them (and leaving the rest of the identifications to others), so I am not going to slow down to do mark up.

4 Likes

In the genus I often identify the common name in England is different than the US common name and nothing like the translation of the Russian common name. And there are areas in England and the US that also have very local nick names. Like it or not, I need to use the scientific name on identifications.

3 Likes

Not sure if you already use the 3-letter shorcut for genus species spelling. If not, it might help with the backlog. You don’t need to type out the entire genus and part of species, often just remembering the first 3 of each is enough to bring up the right taxon.

For example:

3 Likes

I had no idea. Thank you!

3 Likes

Any number of letters work! For your second example, ‘d f mull’ works too. Sometimes you get lucky with two letter shortcuts like ‘er na’ for Ericameria nauseosa.

4 Likes

Type slowly, so you notice at what letter iNat agrees - yes, I know that!
Works for both binomials and common names (in any language that has already been added to the list for that taxon) You can use the Russian that you are familiar with, and let iNat do the grunt work of finding the binomial for you.

1 Like

Ive been lucky to not run into much of that in my invertebrate world. Its not always just elitist/classist it can also be ablest. Language is very difficult for many Neurodiverse people for many reasons.

I cant seem to multiquote on mobile; but there was someone who said basically “why not just learn scientific name when learning names, why need common name at all its no different its just learning a name so why not learn most accurate one only” that type of thinking is definitely abilist because it assumes that even if the scientific name is written in the same characters as the persons native language, that it is equally easy to learn a new character order and pronounciation of words. I am english native speaker and so have benefit of same alphabet, but scientific names are really fking hard because the character order. It is learning a different language and not being familiar with character order means far more chance to mess it up horribly. Most scientific names look like a jumble mess of letters to me - and I came up in science with degrees and everything.

Memory tricks help, we all develop our own coping strategies after all; but i will for sure use common name if there is one because they make far more sense and are more likely to be accurate than someone trying to decypher my attempt at spelling a scientific name and getting the correct thing.

Heck; for example, it was about two years before I stopped writing down “striped cricket” and “unstriped cricket” in my field surveys - PI knew from that easily which was which. I could pronounce each after a few trips (striped sound like the start with an “s”, nonstriped “used to had ‘em” as sounds like start with Had) but was far from being able to spell them. in my own field notes, i eventually for brave and tried spelling pseuphopholous and hadienoquos because thats how latin seems to like those sounds spelled. Maybe youd be able to figure out that is Ceuthophilus (which i did just look up, after years I remember it starts Ceu and google it every time) and Hadenoecus (which I also just googled to spell correctly)

And keep in mind, being hard of hearing means I often learn pronunciation wrong. Try lip reading a forign language and tell me how that goes for you. (Tounge in cheek, but not…)

Scientific names are simply not natural to many people - even scientists - for many reasons. They are important for clarity across cultures and in final records and papers and all that - but honestly theyre extranious and extra difficult in many situations.

3 Likes

Binomials are impossible for all of us to spell, because they blend Latin and Greek and then the many languages for the botanist’s names. It is ivory tower elitism.
We were stumbling over
https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/119499-Zaluzianskya
a Czech botanist from Prague.
Inca lilies https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/81938-Alstroemeria
he was Swedish …

1 Like

I have a lot of trouble remembering the spelling of the current name for Winterfat genus which is a common plant in my area and was named for a Russian:

Krascheninnikovia

2 Likes

That’s because latinisation makes one letter into three.
Кращенинниковия

4 Likes

Krascheninnikovia - Крашенинниковия (Stepan_Krasheninnikov). Щ = schts or szcz or scz (Scilla mischtschenkoana - пролеска Мищенко, Darevskia szczerbaki - скальная ящерица Щербака, Tulipa ivasczenkoae - тюльпан Иващенко) :)

1 Like