Insect Names

All known organisms, including insects and their relatives, have a scientific name, and many also have a common name (Goto 1982).

Scientific names are applied according to rigorous procedures (Ride et al. 1985), with consistency, universality, and stability as primary considerations. Each species must bear a unique Latinized two-part epithet (for subspecies, three-part), consisting of a genus and specific name, for example, for the common housefly, Musca domestica. Species are grouped into a hierarchy of categories, the most usual being (in ascending order) the tribe (name ends in suffix, -ini, e.g., Muscini), subfamily (-inae, Muscinae), family (-idae, Muscidae), and order (no standard suffix, e.g., Diptera).

Names are given to species or higher taxa as they are discovered and established by publication. The first describer is entitled to authorship, and all others are obliged to use that name. The term "new species" refers to one that has been so found for the first time, not to freshly evolved ones; none of the latter has yet been observed in nature.

Scientific names are properly pronounced according to the rules of Latin, but their way of being spoken usually varies according to the native accent of the speaker. This should bother no one except Latin scholars, as long as the name is understood.

Common names, or vulgates, are applied to the insects and their relatives in all Latin American countries. Léxica have been published for Chile (Brücher 1942, Perez D'Angello 1966), Peru (Dourojeanni 1965), Brazil (Baucke 1961, Biezanko and Link 1972, Monte 1928, da Silva 1930-1934) and Haiti (Audant 1941). Many vulgates are adopted directly from indigenous languages, some tribes and local cultures being prolific nomenclaturists, especially in Brazil (Monte 1928). These suffer from frequent spelling and pronunciation variations, particularly in Brazil (where, in general, I follow von Ihering's [1968] orthography). At least partial entomological glossaries exist for the following native tongues: Mayan (Welling 1958), Aztec (= Nahuatl, etc.; Ordoño 1982), Kunza (= Atacameño; Munizaga and Herrera 1957), Jívaro (Guallart 1968), Tupí-Guaraní (Tastevin 1923), and Quechua (García 1976). Vernacular names appear according to no consistent set of standards, varying from place to place or time to time with different origins and related to the nature of the society employing them (Stoetzel 1989). Phonetic variations in spelling are common.

Scientists and educated people often form simple transliterations of technical names (muscids or muscideos, from Mus-cidae) or accommodate names of classic origin (scarabs or escarabajos, from Greek karabos). Laymen and country folk are likely to invent quaint, often descriptive appellations that frequently apply to an insect's behavior (saltamonte = "hill jumper") or stinging abilities (lagarta de fogo = "fire worm"), anatomy (tijeretas = "scissor bearers"), or that are onamatapoetic (cricket, chicharras), or that may be without obvious derivation (gallinipper). Sometimes these are literal translations from modern languages (scorpions, escorpiones) or usages (tarantulas) not common to the region. Mixtures of sympatric languages also occur (sede [Spanish] + ocuilin [Nahuatl] = sedeo-cuilin = silkworm). The only attempt to standardize common names has been made with pest species in English (Stoetzel 1989).

Most languages have a broad term for insects and like animals, roughly equivalent to the English, for example, "bug" ("worm" or "grub"): bicho (Spanish and Portuguese) and ocuilin (Nahuatl).

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