Proposal (339) to South American Classification Committee


Change English vernacular name for Phrygilus carbonarius


Currently known by the name Carbonated Sierra Finch, a name used both in Dickinson (2003) and in Gill & Wright (2006), this name reminds one of carbonated drinks rather than of the charcoal colour that led to the coinage of the scientific name. This so amused me that in Dickinson (2003) I footnoted this with "Presumably a sparkling bird!". As you can imagine I do think change is needed.


Following some discussions with Van Remsen and inputs both from him and from Normand David and Andy Elliott a number of suggestions were considered. Of these I consider the simplest to be Grayish Sierra Finch but I confess to never having seen the species even as a skin. It is quite possible that I am over-cautious and it would be acceptable to call it the Gray Sierra Finch and if that is what SACC prefers I shall be quite happy.


Edward C. Dickinson , March 2008


Addendum from Remsen: The way we should proceed on this is to first vote on whether to change at all the current English name, "Carbonated," and then if that passes, we can debate a substitute. [I like "Carbonaceous," although this literally means made of carbon]


The problem with the current name is that "carbonated" to the vast majority of people means to infuse with carbon dioxide, hence Edward's "sparkling." Many dictionaries given "to burn to carbon" as one definition, as was the presumed intention of whoever gave the species its English name in referring to the species' gray color. However, certainly in terms of frequency of usage, "carbonated" means bubbly, and the notion of a carbonated bird, not beverage, is pretty silly. The root of the word "carbonated" is "carbonate", a class of chemical compounds, not "carbon," the substance whose color resembles the one on this bird's plumage.


So, a YES means change to something besides Carbonated, and NO means leave as is.




Comments from Robbins: "NO. From the day that I first read the description of this species in Meyer de Schauensee (1970) through the time that I finally had field experience with the species I've felt the name Carbonated is quite appropriate. I've never heard anyone, until now, suggest that it meant anything other than the carbon-like coloration."


Comments from Stotz: "NO. I consider this a classically unnecessary English name change. Carbonated is a reasonable English version of the scientific name.  It is distinctive and descriptive (although admittedly if you think about it too hard, you might expect the bird to be fizzy.). I can see no compelling reason for doing away with the only English name this bird has ever had."


Comments from Stiles: "[No strong opinion here, for now ...  names that have been used in other groups for a dark grey, dingy bird are "dusky" and "smoky" but I am not sure whether it would be more trouble to change or simply to explain more widely the alternative derivation of "carbonated".]


Comments from Remsen: "YES. Perpetuating a misuse of a word is poor form. Yes, we all understand what the word was supposed to suggest, namely "carbon-ated" to suggest carbon color, but the root of the word "carbonated" is carbonate, not carbon. The reason most bird people are comfortable with mis-formed "Carbonated" is that they recognize that the intention was to describe the bird's color and thus assume that "carbonated" is an adjective that describes a carbon-like color. [So, the reason that Mark and Doug, for example, are comfortable with "carbonated" as describing the bird's plumage is due to circular reasoning, not direct knowledge of the definition of carbonated.]  But that is not correct word usage, and I do not think SACC should perpetuate it.  Further, to anyone outside southern South American birding, "carbonated" indeed means to charge with carbon dioxide ... making it perhaps the most ridiculous bird name in South America."


Comments from Jaramillo: "NO - I think there is absolutely no harm in leaving it as it is. This bird has been known as the Carbonated S-F for ever, no one pointed out this name issue before, and we all survived. It is quirky and ridiculous, but not a big deal in my opinion, particularly because we do understand what it is supposed to mean. In the interest of name stability, let's leave it as it is."