Why I Am a Christian

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Understanding Those Strange Scientific Names

     Once, when I was studying for my M.Sc., Lone Pine Sanctuary was suddenly invaded by a host of girls from some private school, obviously as part of a science project, for they each carried a list of questions to be researched. To the question, "What is the scientific name of the spiny anteater", half of them had nothing, and the other half had written "echidna", which I suspect is what the nuns expected. In any case, I always religiously crossed it out when they showed it to me, and wrote, Tachyglossus aculeatus, tried to teach them how to pronounce it, and informed them that I was a zoologist, and knew what I was talking about.
     All this raises a subject which is probably arcane to most of you. What is the purpose of these strange scientific names? Who coins them? What is wrong with "echidna", or even "spiny anteater"? Indeed, how do you pronounce the silly things anyway?