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Re: What's in a Name?

On Sat, 16 Aug 1997 14:02:51 -0500 franczak@ntplx.net (Brian Franczak)
>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 
>> depends on the audience, turn that around almost immediately with 
>> 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 
>> 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. 

No way.  How can we legitimize "raptor" just by using it in a sentence to
correct it?  How the heck do you correct it then?  Never mention it? 
Call it the "r" word?  Wash their mouths out with soap? 

>And I'm not so sure 
>like the idea of the "truth" or the "facts" being portrayed as some 
>kind of
>"secret" that few people know about. 

What if that's the case?  The JP books and movies have given people a
popular false impression.  A "few" people know the true size of
velociraptor.  So those of us who know, correct the mistake.  What's
wrong with that?  Not everyone does science.  It's the job of scientists
to do science to interpret the world.  An educator has to translate that
for their students, and sometimes the general public.  If we were all
paleontologists, translators wouldn't be necessary. 

>And your qualifier about
>TV/movie-makers would also make it seem that there is some conspiracy 
>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.

OK, so we tell people the movie makers are too lazy to get the science
right, despite the fact that they hire Jack Horner as an advisor.  Will
bad-mouthing the movies in this way rather than the other way help people
remember better?  I don't think it will make any difference how you say
the movies are wrong as long as you say they are wrong. 

>Let's play this scenario:
{long snip}
> The blame falls squarely on 
>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 
>a work of fiction and use it when discussing real science. Sorry, but
>there's nothing wrong with -- or harmful, confusing, or complicated 
>-- calling a dromaeosaur a dromaeosaur.

I have no problem with this, but we still have to use the "r" word to
transfer the mental picture [that is already in everyone's head of a
"raptor"] to the word dromaeosaur.  Just like "Brontosaurus" has been
replaced with Apatosaurus.  With enough repetition, it will be done.  

Judy Molnar
Education Associate, Virginia Living Museum
All questions are valid; all answers are tentative.