Sunday, 18 July 2010

Common names

I admit I was a bit dismissive of the competition, run by Natural England, The Guardian and The Oxford University Museum of Natural History, to name several rare species of invertebrates. After all, nobody has a problem with plant names such as Fucshia and Rhododendron. But now the results are in I freely admit that I was wrong - the names are wonderful! And I am sure that a newspaper article discussing the fate of the Queen’s Executioner beetle will attract the interest of far more people than an article about Megapenthes lugens! (To see the results of the naming competition, visit Buglife for a good summary).

I'm now such a convert to the cause that I think all common names should be decided by competition. It couldn't fail to produce better results than the dreary efforts of the official organisations. While preparing birds for inclusion in the Chirp! apps, I frequently find examples of official name changes, and they are usually for the worse, going for the purely descriptive. I was sorry to see that the Canadian bird sometimes called the Whiskey Jack - a great, original name with a very long heritage- is officially the Grey Jay. Grey Jay! Yes, it's grey, yes, it's a Jay, but give me Whiskey Jack any day.

PS I'm alarmed to see that apparently I haven't updated this blog since May! I'm sure I updated in June, but there's no record of it. We have continued to be ridiculously busy so maybe I forgot to press the "publish post" button. I shall try to be more diligent in future!