Thursday, September 14, 2006

What's the name?

Looking over the search terms that have brought recent visitors to Thomasburg Walks I noticed that someone had come on a search from Australia for "parts of the teddy bear bee." My post "Teddy-bear Bee" popped up, but I wondered why someone would have chosen to search for the spur-of-the-moment nickname I gave to what I learned was a leaf-cutter bee (Megachile).

Turns out that there are bees commonly called "teddy bear bees," bees of the genus Amegilla. The link will take you to a picture of one. This link will take you to an Australian leaf-cutter bee of the same genus as my bee. Check it out and I'm sure you'll agree that my Megachile is much more like a teddy bear (pinchy mouth parts aside) than either of these Australian bees.

Appropriateness aside, this unintentional misappropriation of a name can serve as a reminder of the ambiguities inherent in the use of common names. There is a trend to standardize the common English names of birds so that they can be used as proper names. This has been done for North American birds by the AOU Checklist. And is now being attempted by the International Ornithological Conference for the English names of birds everywhere. (Read about this and all that it entails at Birds Etcetera.) What a lot of work! Work that is already done by the scientific (Latin) names, and done for English and non-English alike. Why do it all over again?

1 comment:

Silvena said...

This is the cutest bee ever!!!!!! Love it!