Proposal (30) to South American Classification Committee
Change English name of Poecilotriccus luluae
Effect on South American CL: This proposal would change the current English name of Poecilotriccus luluae from "Lulu's Tody-Tyrant" to "Johnson's Tody-Tyrant."
Background: The recently described Poecilotriccus luluae is currently given the English name "Lulu's Tody-Tyrant," following the recommendation of its describers (Johnson and Jones 2001). However, the Note that I wrote (Tyrannidae #13) indicates how I feel about that English name:
"Recently described: Johnson and Jones (2001). Johnson and Jones suggested "Lulu's Tody-Tyrant", but if it's going to carry anyone's name, it ought to be "Johnson's Tody-Tyrant." The logical "Rufous-headed " is sort-of "preoccupied" in Pseudotriccus pygmy-tyrants. Proposal needed."
With the death of Ned K. Johnson two days ago, I propose that we honor his extensive contributions to the biology of the Tyrannidae by changing the English name of this species. Although patronyms are frowned upon by many, I think it is extremely appropriate in this case because not only did he discover and describe this species, and publish many important papers on systematics and geographic variation of the Tyrannidae, but also he died at a relatively young age and "on the job." Honoring Ned with this name also signals that SACC strongly supports the principles that Ned embodied, namely intensive and rigorous fieldwork combined with detailed, meticulous data analysis. I am slightly concerned that he might have taken offense to our "overturning" his proposed name ("Lulu's"), but, as indicated above, "Lulu's" was already in my gun sights as perhaps my least favorite English name.
JOHNSON, N. K., AND R. E. JONES. 2001. A new species of tody-tyrant (Tyrannidae: Poecilotriccus) from northern Peru. Auk 118: 334-341.
Van Remsen, 17 June 2003
Note from Remsen: With the passage of some time since Ned’s death, I now feel free to divulge that Ned told me that luluae was his serious intent for a name to honor a benefactor, but that he had so little regard for English names that he considered “Lulu’s” to be somewhat of a joke on the world.
Comments from Zimmer: "I think this is an appropriate name change, in spite of the fact that I generally like to not mess with a name suggested by the describer. This change would serve the dual purpose of honoring Ned's enormous contributions while at the same time eliminating a name that, frankly, sounds more than a little silly."
Comments from Schulenberg: "NO. I usually prefer stability over tinkering with respect to English names, but I'm not doctrinaire on the subject, and in any event this name is fresh enough not to be well established. And I don't have any particular problem with patronyms. But I do have a problem with "split" patronyms, where the English name and scientific name both honor a person, but do not honor the *same* person. Just strikes me as a stupid (and confusing) thing to do.
" I don't think I respect Ned and his work any less for not going along with this proposal. Actually, what I'd like to see would be for Ned to receive his patronym the old fashioned way, i.e. "xxxx johnsoni" or "xxx nedjohnsoni".
Response from Remsen: I suggest that "stupid (and confusing)" may be a little strong. Although the agreement between scientific and English patronyms is commonplace, I see no reason why this should be codified or why it is confusing unless there is another species in same family that might generate it, e.g., hypothetically, "Empidonax johnsoni" and "Johnson's Flycatcher" being two separate species. Furthermore, we just accepted "Xiphorhynchus kienerii Zimmer's Woodcreeper" (and I don't know the etymology, but isn't "Sporophila zelichi Narosky's Seedeater" in same category?). [If you want "stupid (and confusing)", or at least "confusing", how about "Chlorothraupis olivacea (Lemon-spectacled Tanager)" vs. "C. carmioli (Olive Tanager)' in just about every classification except 'Howard-Moore' (and SACC). Or Gallinago andina = "Puna Snipe", but G. jamesoni = "Andean Snipe".]
Comments from Stotz: "I am about as doctrinaire about not messing with English names as one gets, but I am willing to change this one as it has such a short history, is so terrible (but is it really worse that Parodi's Hemispingus?), and Johnson's is an appropriate honor. I am less concerned than Tom that we have a bird that honors two different people with the English name and scientific name. This is not unprecedented. MacGillivray's Warbler and Audubon's Shearwater are two examples that come immediately to mind. We seem to have survived that problem with those species fairly easily."
Comments from Stiles: "YES. (No strong feelings on this one, "Lulu's" being new and thus having no history to speak of (its only advantage being mnemonic for the Latin name), and the tribute to Ned is nice)."
Comments from Jaramillo: "YES. Change to Johnson's Pygmy-Tyrant. I am not concerned with the 'split patronym' and Ned Johnson's work on tyrants and birds in general has been far reaching enough to warrant the honour."