What's in a Name? (Part I of IV) - Oceana USA
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September 11, 2007

What’s in a Name? (Part I of IV)

BY: ben

I must confess to being slightly disappointed with the naming of certain fish species. It’s as if the task fell to some poor sap who didn’t have the time, interest or creativity in recommending a more captivating alias. With many titles it seems clear that humor has definitely changed over time. I imagine that if some of these unfortunate animals knew what they were being called by a few land-lubbing mammals, they would be outraged. Worse still, is that they have managed to remain so poorly named (at least in my humble opinion) for so long. So I propose a Committee be formed that would identify those misappropriately named, and re-christen them.

In this spirit, I have come up with a list of fish who should be re-named first, and by no means is this an exhaustive list:

    1. Soupfin Shark (Galeorhinus galeus) — I’d hate to be named tasty-legged man.
    2. Puddingwife (Halichoeres radiatus) — Say what??!!
    3. John Dory (Zeus faber) — I have a friend that bears a striking resemblance to this fish, so I understand this one a little more. While several different stories contend for the rights to explain the origin of the name, the silliest, but certainly most creative, seems to me to be the explanation given by Jules Verne in his novel An Antarctic Mystery: “The legendary etymology of this piscatorial designation is Janitore, the `door-keeper,’ in allusion to St. Peter, who brought a fish said to be of that species, to our Lord at His command.” (St. Peter is said to be keeper of the pearly gates of Heaven.) I prefer the more mundane explanation that it comes from the French jaune and dorée for yellow and gilded – since it does occur, among several locales, in the Mediterranean and off the coast of France. Either way, the name has to go.
    4. Sergeant Major (Abudefduf saxatilis) — I understand this is a high rank, but why not just go with `the General’?
    5. Threespot Damselfish (Stegastes planifrons) — A distressed perch? You have to feel sorry for the males of this genus. See also:

      a. Dusky Damselfish (Stegastes adustus)
      b. Yellowtail Damselfish (Microspathodon chrysurus)

Stay tuned for more bad names tomorrow … same bat time, same bat channel.