The American Ornithological Society, the organization responsible for standardizing English bird names across the Americas, announced on Wednesday that it would rename all species honoring people. Bird names derived from people, the society said in a statement, can be harmful, exclusive and detract from “the focus, appreciation or consideration of the birds themselves.”What are they going to do when they figure out that the word Ornithological comes from people who were firm believers in slavery?
That means the Audubon’s shearwater, a bird found off the coast of the southeastern United States, will no longer have a name acknowledging John James Audubon, a famous bird illustrator and a slave owner who adamantly opposed abolition.
No, they are not responsible for policing the language. People can use whatever names they want.
Jordan Rutter, a founder of Bird Names For Birds, said the petition was inspired by what became a momentous encounter in Central Park in 2020, when a white woman falsely reported to police that Christian Cooper, a Black birder, was threatening her.Is that what this is about? He certainly was threatening her. Wikipedia reports:
By his own account, Christian then said, "Look, if you're going to do what you want, I'm going to do what I want, but you're not going to like it", and beckoned the dog toward him with a dog treat.So by his account, he threatened to do something that she would not like. He did not say what, but it was obviously hostile, and involving the dog. He also got her fired from her job.
But to Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago who is an avid birder, the need for more descriptive names seem pressing. Performative acts like this “are really deeply injurious to science,” he said. “We cannot go back through the history of science and wipe out everybody who was not a perfect human being.” Dr. Coyne added that the effort to update so many names would be better invested in something more impactful to society, such as teaching underprivileged children about birds.Glad to see Coyne quoted saying something sensible. Apparently birders hate the dog and cat lovers the way the Gazans hate the Jews, but the rest of us should not have to change the language.