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RE: DINOSAUR digest 1347
I apologize in advance for being irritating, but I've been pondering these
thoughts for a while and its time to see if they ring a bell with anyone.
In fact, all four of the roots in "Micropachycephalosaurus" are Greek, not
Latin at all. I say this, not to be pedantic, but to show that standards
change. These days, neither Latin nor Greek make much difference (more on
that in a moment). As for Bambiraptor, it is hard do object to a name that
is highly descriptive in its own cultural frame of reference, and honors a
classic early work of cinematography. (Yes, I believe it was a book before
that, but few have read the book). I've never liked the movie, personally,
but many do. Certainly it captures in a mythic way many of the important
cultural archetypes of America before WWII.
But back to naming dinosaurs. Paleontology is not engineering. It has
precious little economic importance as a means of production, nor is the
knowledge gained likely to be of much practical importance. It is an
intellectual art form, primarily -- an entertainment medium. The rules of
the form absolutely require adherence to scientific rigor, but the reason
people will spend countless uncompensated, or grossly under-compensated,
hours doing it is because of its aesthetics, its entertainment value. It
gives us a feeling of connectedness with our world and past. It is a
gorgeous art form that ties together elements of almost all other science
and art. It is the real-world equivalent of "The Bead Game" in Hermann
Hesse's "Magister Ludi".
[To Steve in particular: I remember playing one of your early RPG systems
in the mid 70's. They caught some of the same flavor of logical rigor
combined with elements of art, whimsy -- and humorous anachronism.]
Like all arts, some of the elements are cast in stone, while others float
on culture. Some general naming rules have to be set, but the practice of
using descriptive Greek or Latin isn't required and is increasingly
unuseful. Greek and Latin don't communicate to people as well as they once
did, the classical vocabulary and references known to most scientists
shrinks every year, and history suggests that the descriptions tend to
become obsolete or even dead wrong. I like "Bambiraptor." It is highly
descriptive, probably requires less cultural context than a Hellenized
name, and is easy to remember. If it lacks dignity -- well, so do I: every
darned time I stumble over something like "arctometatarsalia" (which is
really confusing since the meaning is potentially different, depending on
whether 'arcto-' is translated as a Greek or Latin root) or even
Vertebrate Notes at
From: Steve Jackson [SMTP:email@example.com]
Sent: Saturday, April 08, 2000 12:25 PM
Subject: Re: DINOSAUR digest 1347
> Bambiraptor is
>quite a memorable name (as compared to Micropachycephalosaurus).
Disagree. If you have any Latin at all, Micropachycephalosaurus is
perfectly memorable because it is descriptive. Yes, it's a long word; that
should not make it less memorable, though I admit it's less convenient.
Bambiraptor is memorable, to be blunt, because it's DUMB.
Yes, there's a history of taxonomic humor, and senses of humor vary, but
Bambiraptor isn't wit; it's an exploding cigar. I can sympathize with
workers who might set out deliberately to sink the name for that reason
alone . . .
Steve Jackson - yes, of SJ Games - yes, we won the Secret Service case
Learn Web or die - http://www.sjgames.com/ - dinosaurs, Lego, Kahlua!
The heck with PGP keys; finger for Geek Code. Fnord.