[Tweeters] Bird Names for Birds runs into an obstacle
devonc78 at gmail.com
Thu Apr 1 06:16:18 PDT 2021
My cat refers to himself as the "master of the humans"
The crows in our yard call themselves "obsidian fecal depositers". They
have a pretty good sense of humor
On Thu, Apr 1, 2021, 04:20 Matt Bartels <mattxyz at earthlink.net> wrote:
> As our technological capabilities have advanced, an unexpected obstacle
> has arisen to confound a worthwhile project. In the past year, Bird Names
> For Birds <https://birdnamesforbirds.wordpress.com/> has elevated the
> long discussion over how we name birds. After beginning by calling out the
> problematic behavior of many species’ namesakes, the discussion evolved to
> ask why any species should be named after humans at all?
> One recurring theme in the re-naming debates was that bird names should
> stop centering humans. Before long, the natural next step came to mind:
> Wouldn’t it be better if we could just call birds by the names they call
> themselves and each other? As initiative co-founder Jordan Rudder said at
> the time ’the solution was right there in our name: *Bird* names for
> birds!” The goal moved beyond just removing human names to the bigger
> aspiration to call birds what they want to be called. Until recently, this
> was an idea beyond our capabilities. Then suddenly, technology caught up
> and the seemingly impossible became reality.
> In the past decade, sensor technology has evolved faster than ever.
> Sensors are now increasingly able to record and translate brain activity
> into understandable thoughts, actions and yes, names. It was only a matter
> of time before a group of curious ornithologists adapted this work to ask
> ‘what do birds call themselves and each other?’
> Unfortunately, once results began to come back, problems quickly emerged.
> First, when scientists uncovered self-referential names, they quickly
> realized that birds tend to be a bit dramatic in their self-evaluations:
> "It is simply astounding how many species of raptor refer to themselves as
> essentially ‘the bringer of terror from the skies’ said one researcher.
> She continued, “Essentially all passerines, even sparrows, use some variant
> of ‘most beautiful creature ever’ to refer to themselves. Hummingbirds
> found a way to combine titles of both 'most beautiful and most fierce’ into
> their names…” What became apparent was that self-referential names would
> never do the trick of distinguishing between species, because only a few
> titles were ever in use. Of the over 10,000 species worldwide, scientists
> projected that only 50-100 names were in use. Birds, it turns out, are not
> particularly creative in their chosen names.
> The situation became even worse, believe it or not, when scientists looked
> at birds’ names for each other. The hope for more variety was realized, but
> another problem emerged. As one researcher put it “I never expected so much
> profanity….We just couldn’t begin to publish the phrases that corvids use
> for other passerines; shorebirds use remarkably colorful names to disparage
> the feeding abilities of sparrows, and tubenoses uniformly use horrible
> language to refer to less agile flyers. There was widespread disdain for
> ducks and their sexual exploits that led to vulgar names that, again, could
> never be printed in a field guide.” Human insults turn out to be some of
> the most mild of the animal kingdom.
> In the end, Bird Names for Birds project is considering a name change.
> While less eloquent, the project may soon be known as “Slightly Less
> Problematic Names for Birds" or maybe the simple “Better Names for Birds.”
> Matt Bartels
> Seattle, WA
> Tweeters mailing list
> Tweeters at u.washington.edu
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