Tag Archives: taxonomy

Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Latin names

Warning: judgy and subjective.

If you’ve been hanging around Scientist Sees Squirrel, you’ll know I have a strange and nerdy fascination with Latin names of plants and animals. People often think (my undergraduates always think) Latin names are long, obscure, boring, and unpronounceable.  But they’re wrong.  Latin names can be wonderful – and I have a series of posts saying so.  They can be delightful to say.  They can celebrate scientific heroes or pop-culture ones.  They can keep alive the memory of people otherwise forgotten.  Sometimes they can do all those things at once.  I think of Latin names as loose threads that, when pulled on, often reveal unexpected and fascinating stories.

But. Continue reading

Worth a read: The Naming of the Shrew

naming of the shrewJohn Wright’s The Naming of the Shrew (Bloomsbury, 2014) is subtitled A Curious History of Latin Names.  As you may know, I’ve been  curious about Latin (or “scientific” names myself. Stumbling across The Naming of the Shrew, therefore, had me pretty excited*.  It turned out to be not quite what I thought, but none the less enjoyable for that.

Wright is a British natural historian with a particular interest in mushrooms (which he doesn’t hesitate to let show).  His Curious History is a curious little book. Continue reading

What do you think about “celebrity” Latin names?

Photo: Heteropoda davidbowie, by K.S. Seshadri via wikimedia.org CC BY-SA 4.0

The passing of David Bowie last week brought new attention to his life and his long career in the arts. Over at the Biodiversity Blog, Jeff Ollerton reminded us that one of the many ways Bowie is immortalized is in the naming of the huntsman spider Heteropoda davidbowie (by Peter Jäger).

A lot of species are cruising around unaware that they bear scientific, or “Latin”, names commemorating celebrities. Continue reading