This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.



Thursday, 4 February 2016

moth names switching: a rant

It's not very long since I wrote about the difficulty of naming biological specimens - and it is difficult - but sometimes I run out of patience.

In Britain, in about 1939 the scientific species name of the moth Green Silver-lines, prasinana, was given to the Scarce Silver-lines, previously named bicolorana.

File:Green Silver-lines (Pseudoips prasinana).jpg
Photo of Green Silver-lines by Ben Sale

Why?

I've no idea why, quite frankly, but then why doesn't matter: it was still an idiotic thing to do.

File:(2421) Scarce Silver-lines (Bena bicolorana) (7630241904).jpg
Photo of Scarce Silver-lines also by Ben Sale (he's terrific, is Ben).

It means that to know which record belongs to which moth you have to know the date of the record, as well as allow for some delay in getting news of the decision to the mothing community.

Perhaps they sent telegrams...



(Telegram messenger bike)

As if that wasn't confusing and nuts enough, then in about 1990 the name prasinana was swapped back to the Green Silver-lines again.

Of course, if you know nothing of this moth-naming saga, you're bound to assume that all records of all moths called prasinana are for the same species.

In fact, it's really enough to make one question the use of the word scientific.

Word To Use Today: nuts. The word meaning bonkers is the same word as the one that means edible nut (it also means head). It comes from the Old English hnutu.

PS Just in case you're wondering (you never know) the Green Silver-lines was called fagana between 1939 and 1990.


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