Thanks @jonathan142, very helpful response.
It sounds like everybody agrees that the general rule should be to go with common use in most instances? I’m hoping we can figure out some kind of vague consensus as to when exceptions should be made.
Personally, some criteria I would use are below. If any one of these is true I would feel more comfortable with using an alternative name as the default:
- The new name is not radically less commonly used than the old one (maybe at least 10 to 20% as common).
- The old name is offensive
- The old name is largely only used among academics, specialists and strong enthusiasts (or similarly, the total usage of any name is low)
- The old name was created only recently
- There is reason to think that usage is in the process of shifting broadly towards use of the new name among all segments of the population
Probably there are other reasonable cases.
But none of these apply to this particular case. @jonathan142 I’m wondering if you can come up with some sort of criteria for why this case should be an exception, that could not lead to tons of other commonly-used names in other groups being changed by specialists in opposition to common use?
That’s really my concern. It’s not such a huge deal to use a different name for this one species. It’s that I don’t see why this case is special. A significant fraction of common names could be changed to be more “accurate”. And I think this would be a real loss, and represents a misunderstanding of how human language works.
Birds are probably worse than many other groups, but I quickly went through my local list, and picked out names that, on a global basis, are defined based on physical characteristics/common use rather than taxonomy: Goose, Teal, Partridge, Pigeon, Dove, Gallinule, Vulture, Kite, Eagle, Hawk, Crow, Raven, Magpie, Martin, Thrush, Sparrow, Finch, Chat, Oriole, Blackbird, Warbler, Redstart, Tanager, Bunting and Grosbeak. Why should we not treat Hornet similarly? Many of these names do cause confusion regularly. I see iNat records assigned to the wrong kind of sparrow daily. It’s not really a big deal - indeed it can be a useful hook into talking about the different biology of different groups.
Ode names in particular are amazing, and whoever came up with some of them is a genius. Ebony Boghaunter, Sparkling Jewelwing, Halloween Pennant, Stygian Shadowdragon, Shadow Darner, Ruby Meadowhawk… these are great. I think the fantastic common names have played a role in the recent explosion of interest in odes.
I think a lot of the reason I feel so strongly about this particular case is that “Bald-faced Aerial Yellowjacket” is just such a terrible name. It reeks of something created by a taxonomist, not by someone trying to give names to the creatures they see around them. It is way too long, is overly technical (aerial makes me think of a swallow or dragonfly, not a wasp that forages in bushes), and is misleading (it isn’t yellow!). The “aerial” in particular is super unnecessary.
Blackjacket would be a great name if it didn’t already refer to another species. That’s a name I could see myself using. I am never ever going to say “Bald-faced Aerial Yellowjacket” when pointing out a wasp in the field. Especially when we already have a perfectly good name for the species that everyone understands.