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Re: What's in a Name?

Allan Edels wrote:

> I think that you must be fluid with how you deal with mistaken ideas such as
> "Raptors" (etc.) or misidentified drawings.  Use the word raptor to let your
> audience know you can refer to the (sort of) popular name - but, and this
> depends on the audience, turn that around almost immediately with something
> like: "That's what the TV and movie people call them, but I'll let you in
>on a
> secret - the ones you see in the movie are most likely called Deinonychus by
> scientists  -  and they made them too big - just to scare you."
> If you use the idea that you are letting the audience in on secret that
> don't know - you usually get their 'rapt' attention  [   :)   ]

I couldn't disagree more strongly with this approach. Using the
inappropriate name -- no matter how fast or how strongly you qualify it --
still gives the impression that it is appropriate. And I'm not so sure I
like the idea of the "truth" or the "facts" being portrayed as some kind of
"secret" that few people know about. And your qualifier about
TV/movie-makers would also make it seem that there is some conspiracy on
the part of Hollywood to mislead people; in fact, it is only their own
laziness that keeps them from getting the facts straight in the first
place, not some desire to deceive.

Let's play this scenario: 10-year-old Timmy really, really likes dinosaurs.
He's seen JURASSIC PARK and THE LOST WORLD over a dozen times each. His
room is full of model dinosaur replicas, he has posters and calendars
adorning his walls, and his bookshelf is full to overflowing with dinosaur
books. One day, when Timmy is down with the flu, he asks his mom to go to
Borders and buy him as many books about raptors as she can find. Happy to
oblige her son's interest, off she goes.
When Mom gets to Borders, she asks the clerk at the information desk where
she can find books about raptors. The clerk consults her computer index,
and points Mom in the right direction. In the children's section, she picks
up Lessem's RAPTORS! THE NASTIEST DINOSAURS, but apparently there is also a
book on the subject in the adult nature section, so she goes to nab that
one as well. She's in a bit of a hurry and doesn't look at the cover --
only the title on the spine -- as she grabs it off the shelf. Arriving
home, she hands the bag of books off to Timmy, who eagerly opens it and
begins pulling out the contents. Out comes Lessem's book, followed by
RAPTORS by Scott Weidensaul. "Hey, what's this?!" Timmy cries. "This isn't
a book about raptors, it's a book about birds!"

So who's to blame in this scenario? Timmy? No, he's been taught that it's
all right to call dromaeosaurs "raptors." Mom? Well, maybe if she'd looked
at the book a little more carefully, she might not have made the mistake,
but, hey, her kid asked for books on raptors, and that's what she bought
him. The clerk at Borders? Same answer; not her job to mind-read that Mom
wanted books about dinosaurs, not raptors. The blame falls squarely on all
those -- including, I'm sorry to say, several dinosaur paleontologists
whose work I respect -- who think it's okay to glom onto a trendy term from
a work of fiction and use it when discussing real science. Sorry, but
there's nothing wrong with -- or harmful, confusing, or complicated about
-- calling a dromaeosaur a dromaeosaur.

Brian (franczak@ntplx.net)