Category Archives: official names

Naming the heavens

The International Astronomical Union announced recently that public input will be considered when names are assigned to “planetary satellites, newly discovered planets, and their host stars.” These public names will be distinct from the scientific designations, which I gather will follow the rules they always have. This seems as good a time as any to look briefly into… Read More »

Two Scotsmen and a tree

The story of Scottish botanists Archibald Menzies, David Douglas, and the tree that bears both their names is a good example of the challenges of establishing either a binomial name or a common name for newly observed species. (Incidentally, the name Menzies is pronounced “MING-iss.”) The tree is the Douglas fir, common in the forests of western North… Read More »

Who names things?

Most of the time, names arise mysteriously out of the collective creativity of language. Common names for plants and animals are a very rich source of information about them and their history of interaction with humans. One inspiration for this blog was a desire to learn where names like wormwood, sassafras, and lungwort came from. However, they have… Read More »