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Re: Use of the term "raptor" for theropod dinosaurs

At 11:38 PM 4/27/96 -0400, Darren Tanke wrote:
> I have observed with growing alarm the improper useage of the term "raptor"
>when collectively describing a variety of small carnivorous dinosaurs. This
>term is in widespread use in the popular press, movies, books, and now,
>after attending Dinofest'96 I see it is being used as a descriptive term in
>scientific presentations and ultimately I guess it will appear in their
>scientific publications too. Am I the only one who objects to the use of the
>term "raptor" for small theropod dinosaurs?
> Despite their osteological similarities to, and taxonomic relationships
>with modern birds, small theropods are not in any sense of the word
>"raptors". Real raptors are modern birds of prey such as hawks and eagles-
>something small theropods are not. So why has this "raptor" term come into
>common and apparently accepted usage?
> Normally I would avoid such issues, but my 5 year old son has already been
>brainwashed by the media and soon after my return from Dinofest he was
>telling me about a raptor he saw on T.V.  I carried the conversation
>thinking he was talking about a hawk or eagle, but no it was a small theropod.
> Anyone else out there feel the same way I do?
> Glowering and disgruntled in Drumheller...

No, Darren, you're not alone - and it's not just working paleontologists to
whom the use of the term has all the pleasant connotations of fingernails on
a blackboard!   I know whereof I speak!  It shames me to be living in the
city associated with the NBA "Raptors" :-)  (Especially since there are
persistent rumours that, in spite of a much-ballyhooed contest to have the
public name Toronto's NBA team, the name had actually been chosen well in

I was spitefully hoping that once the 'fad' of Jurassic Park wore off, the
rightful meaning of 'raptor' would reassert itself, and the shameless
promoters of the NBA franchise would be left with egg on their face - but
alas, such does not seem to be the case.

Unfortunately, 'common parlance' seems to be usurping the rightful meaning
of the word.  Whenever I correct people on the scientific meaning of the
term, they look at me like I've sprouted another head.  I still shudder
every time but - what can ya do?

Perhaps we can at least start a movement to put an apostrophe at the
beginning of the word( " 'raptor ") - to acknowledge that it's a
contraction?  But on the other hand, it's being used for _all_ dromaeosaurs,
isn't it?

Who to blame?  In this case, it's obvious.  But I'm sure Mr. Crichton
doesn't much care, as it's made him a wealthi(er) man...

Regards to all!

Colin Swift
(Yes, I live in Toronto - but don't hold it against me!)