Monday, November 17, 2008

What's in a name?

That which we hyphenate as Northern Hawk-owl by any other name would be as sweet. And more correct nowadays, if you spell it Northern Hawk Owl.

But frankly, my dear, we birds don't give a damn what you call us or how you spell or punctuate it. For all I care, you can even call me Surnia ulula. Or how about urniasay lulauay? Scientific pig Latin--how's that for class? But me--I've got more important things on my mind, like puncturing that vole down there. Buh bye!


Anonymous said...

Alas, misspelled bird names is one of my pet peeves. Not because the birds care---of course they don't---but because the level of illiteracy in our society is rising at an alarming (to me) rate. And with texting becoming more prevalent, it gets harder and harder to tell what a person is actually saying because they can't spell their words correctly. Is it your or you're? there, their, or they're?? I just think it's pitiful when a name as simple as Pine Siskin comes out Pine SisKEN. Well, it matters to me, that's all I can say.

Laura Erickson said...

From the avian perspective, spelling and proper names are quite irrelevant. But from a human perspective, spelling and grammar are essential first steps in showing respect for a topic. The AOU committee for nomenclature made ornithology the first scientific discipline to respect basic communication among educated people enough to standardize common names. That is worthy of not just respect but downright admiration. Which we do not show by spelling it sisken.