You say Puma, He says Cougar, I say Mountain Lion......

This is a two parter;

1.How many animals have more than one name? (Common name)
2.Why are there so many different names, and can we work towards limiting the variants?

1: Probably all of them.
2: Because people called them different things in different locations, and why would anyone who is not a fascist want to “limit the variants”? Biologists have the binomial system, and if one wants precision, then that works just fine.

Impossible to answer, but in general “many” probably covers it. Many languages have different common names for the same animal. Then there are single names that are applied to multiple species of animal, like “Sheapshead”, which in different parts of the North America can refer to any of a few different species of ( unrelated ) fish.

There are so many different names because different languages, dialects, and regions refer to the same animal by different names ( or different animals by the same name ). Simple as that.

As far as regulating them, there are a very few bodies that do so for specific groups. For example the official English names for birds is established by a particular board. But even that doesn’t help much when you get to different languages.

The answer since Linnaeus’ time has been to use a latin binomial, the “scientific name”, as a universal cross-cultural identifier that is the same in every language. So in different parts of NA Archosargus probatocephalus and Pimelometopon pulcher may both be referred to, confusingly, as “Sheepshead”. But when you see their scientific name it is clear what organism you are talking about, as each organism has an absolutely unique latin ( or latinized greek ) name. As to who decides on those, they are named by a describing scientist and become official when formally published. Their are also separate Zoological and Botanical Board’s of Nomenclature with big thick rule-books ( slightly differences between the two ) which sit in judgement when there is conflict over a name.

  • Tamerlane

No, no, no…not Puma, Cougar, Mountain Lion!

It’s Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, and then Cougar.
dunno about Mountain Lion, that’s probably still a ways off.

What about John Cougar Mellencamp?


But no Cougar untilOctober 24th?

I think you mean “No Panther until October 24th”. Cougar is rumored to be 10.4 and for presumably obvious reasons no date has been set yet. (Mmm, true 64-bit OS!)

To get the thread back on topic: crudites, canapes, h’or dourves anyone?

(or, as my Dad would deliberately say, crew dights, cuh napes, horse doovers?)

Oh cancel that, I forgot that you wanted animals. Hmmph.

Well, there’s buffalo and bison, but I think buffalo is considered informal and technically wrong or something.

Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, Abominable Snowman, Yowie, Almas, Yeren…

All named according to regions.

Vermont’s native mountain lions are called catamounts, to add another to your list.

There’s groundhogs and gophers.
Also, there are lots and lots of names for the (shudder) daddylonglegs insect. It’s also called a Ginnyspider, Jenny spider, and a Harvestman.

Actually, several boards with different jurisdictions, including the American Ornithologists’ Union for North America and the British Ornithologists’ Union for Europe (actually, I’m not sure how wide a jurisdiction they claim), among others. So although birds are more standardized than any other group, there is no single body that has “official” authority world-wide, and the names of many species vary regionally.

Speaking of which, why the heck is Colibri coruscans the “Sparkling Violet-Ear”, instead of the more descriptive and measured “Sparkling Violet-Eared Hummingbird”, hmmm? Answer me THAT hummingbird-dude!
Oh, granted it’s not quite as froo-froo as “Rainbow Starfrontlet” or “Gorgeted Sunangel”, or even “Emerald Puffleg”. But really now, you hardly want to walk into a Panama bar chirping, “I’m a Sparkling Violet-Ear!!!” You’d be lucky to get out of there in one piece. On the other hand if you strolled in and announced gruffly and authoritatively, “I’m a Sparkling Violet-Eared Hummingbird”, well, shoot - THEN you’re going to get some respect.

Right? :wink:

  • Tamerlane


I meant “Sapphire-Vented Puffleg”, of course. Just got it tangled with the “Coppery-Headed Emerald” during post composition.

  • Tamerlane

And if I’m not mistaken, they are called “painter” in the Appalachians.

Here is a review - and evaluation - of all known Felis Concolor names.

Another example: pill bug, sow bug, potato bug, etc. This is an especially vexing example, because there are half a dozen names that people use indiscriminately to refer to three or four distinct arthropods that have general characteristics in common.

(And for what it’s worth, “bug” has a specific entomological connotation as well, which most laypeople don’t concern themselves with.)

Gophers are about 1/10 the size of the groundhog that I see each Feb. 2. I think it’s groundhogs and marmots that are the same beastie.

Gophers, Groundhogs, and Marmots are all Marmota monax according to the link above.

This site says that Gophers are any of 38 species from the family Geomyidae, order Rodentia.

This backs up the second cite.

I suspect the second site is more accurate, but with common names it’s hard to say anything definative, since someplace out there someone may be calling a marmot by the name gopher.

Well, my handle is from the common name for hummingbirds in Spanish - taken from Taino - not specifically for the genus of the Violet-ears.

But yeah, hummingbirds do have particularly twee names:

White-bearded Hermit
White-whiskered Hermit
Green Mango
Adorable Coquette
Festive Coquette
Violet-crowned Woodnymph
White-vented Plumeleteer
Gould’s Jewelfront
Empress Brilliant
Fiery Topaz
Shining Sunbeam
Rainbow Starfrontlet
Velvet-purple Coronet
Glistening Sunangel
Glowing Puffleg
Booted Raquet-tail
Red-tailed Comet
Bearded Helmetcrest
Violet-tailed Sylph
Bearded Mountaineer
Purple-crowned Fairy
Horned Sungem
Amythyst Woodstar

Of course, ounce for ounce hummingbirds are one of the most pugnacious creatures on the planet, which is why the Aztecs called their god of war Huitzilopochtli, the southern hummingbird.