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Re: What's in a Name (Was: RAPTOR WRONG)

Judy Molnar wrote:

> The first impression I had with the use of the term "raptor" was in
> Jurassic Park [movie] when the head "keeper", if you will, was talking to
> Alan Grant about them.  For anyone that has worked in a zoo setting, this
> bastardizing of a semi-scientific name into a slang term {i.e.,
> "velociraptor" into "raptor"} is quite common among hunters and zoo
> keepers.  That is all I thought of it -- a "zoo keeper" developing
> "in-house" jargon for a new captive animal and using it freely with other
> professionals to let them in on important information that he has
> learned.  Yes, it is also a dramatic development in the movie, as others
> point out.  The drama is in the use of an insider's term, with other
> outsiders not understanding it, and the delaying of important actions
> because of that lack of understanding.

This is fine, IN THE MOVIE (or the novel). It's when it slops over into the
real world that it starts irking me. If the suffix -_raptor_ was confined
to dromaeosaurs, it wouldn't be so confusing, but that, of course, is not
the case.

> Since my background is from biology, and especially birding, I picture a
> "raptor" as a bird of prey immediately, and secondarily as a possible
> dromaeosaur.  From the discussion so far, it seems I'm in a minority in
> this response!  "Raptor" is just as much a suffix as "saurus" and I
> always listened for the rest of the word around it before I drew my
> mental picture.  I find it much more confusing that Ornithopods and
> Ornithischians {"bird-hipped dinosaurs"} do not share direct or lateral
> ancestry to birds, when their names imply they do!

The term "ornithischian" does not imply a relationship to birds; it is
simply a descriptive term (because of the configuration of ornithischian

> I feel Bakker's use of "Raptor Red" as a book title is legitimate.  The
> dinosaur has "raptor" in its name, the alliteration of the title is
> appealing, and to me it's the same "insider's" term, and put forth in
> that spirit, as a zoo keeper's.  Would people have felt better if Dr. Bob
> had put an apostrophe in front of the word "raptor," to make it an
> obvious contraction?  Maybe that's the best compromise.

Dr. Bakker's use of the term "raptor" in his book title was legitimate, for
the reasons you state. The problem is that he didn't stop there (obviously
you missed the PALEOWORLD episode where Bakker called every theropod and
the Thanksgiving turkey a "raptor"). And despite the words "A NOVEL" on the
cover of RAPTOR RED, the book reads more as dogma than a work of fiction.
His "I-know-all-about-this-stuff-and-this-is-the-way-it-was" style of
writing sounded more like pontification to me than a story. Well, that's
okay, too, except that his position as a prominent dinosaur paleontologist
gives him a voice that -- even when writing a purported work of fiction --
lends a air of credibility that those who idolize him simply don't

> I just don't see it as a big deal to have an "insider's" term and then
> have to explain it.  Heck, there are already billions of those terms in
> science,

Not to be snide, but could I hear some examples?

> why not add one more?

Because the term raptor already *has* a definition in science. Using the
same word as a common name for two different types of animals is confusing.
Why muck things up? Why cave in to trendiness? The word "raptor" (as a
slang term for dromaeosaurs) did not stem from science, it originated in a
piece of fiction. Let it stay there.

Brian Franczak (franczak@ntplx.net)