Content warning: Discusses common names based on ethnic and other slurs and on the names of people with potentially upsetting histories.
Other warning: considerably longer than usual. But, I think, also considerably more interesting than usual.
Is the common name of a species (cougar, daisy, blue mussel, Swainson’s thrush) an unalterable part of our language, or can we change one? (We might want to, sometimes – most obviously, when a name is offensive.) The answer is more complicated than you might think. Today, a little background to explain those complications, and then some analysis of three cases where organizations have attempted to drive changes in common names.
We share the Earth with millions of other species, and they’re both fascinating (all of them!) and directly important to us (many of them). Continue reading