[Sca-cooks] Haba/Garbanzos

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Thu Mar 6 14:56:46 PST 2008

> And this is precisely why the system of species names was invented.
> Common names are notoriously unreliable and can have multiple
> meanings depending on exactly who is using them.
> I think that this is a problem that will always be faced to some
> extent when dealing with historical sources. There will very likely
> be some doubt as to exactly what plant is meant by a given name if
> there are several possibilities.
> Dragon

Linnean taxonomy was devised to group, classify, and relate individual 
organisms, taking some of the confusion out of the preceeding taxonomic 
systems found in the herbals.  It is secondarily useful in that the system 
usually produces a single name for a defined and described organism.  There 
are competing names and competing taxonomic systems, but there are 
mechanisms established to handle the disputes.  However, assuming that a 
scientific name is fixed can be very interesting when there are competing 
taxonomies, as we occasionally have encountered on this list.

Common names are a problem because they may be used to describe multiple 
organisma or have been transferred from one organism to another over time. 
This is not the case either in the jay/magpie or the haba/garbanzo 
discussion.  With the jay and magpie, we are concerned with how the Ancient 
Greeks and Romans classified these birds and the etymology of the words from 
Greek to Latin to modern language.  This may require research, but the 
answers are almost certainly there.  In the case of haba, garbanzo,cow pea, 
chickpea, etc., there is no real ambiguity about the meaning, which suggests 
that any problems are individual error.


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