Today's Paper Latest Coronavirus Cooking Families Core values Listen Story ideas iPad Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive
ADVERTISEMENT

Somebody really ruffled the feathers of my colleague over in the editorial section Monday about the proper reference for the bobwhite quail.

We commoners use bobwhite quail instead of the bird's Latin taxonomic designation, Colinus virginianus. Colinus is a genus of birds in the family Phasiandae, to which quails belong.

The species in question is part of a group known as New World Quail and was first and heretofore identified with the British colony of Virginia, as is another Arkansas favorite, the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), and the northern cardinal, which was originally named Cardinalis virginianus until "they" changed it to Richmondena cardinalis in 1838 to honor Charles Richmond, an American ornithologist. In 1983, "they" changed it again to Cardinalis cardinalis.

A cardinal by any other name is just as red, but this example illustrates a propensity toward evolutionary nomenclature, like adding names to already iconic landmarks such as "Dale Bumpers" to the White River National Wildlife Refuge, and "Craig D. Campbell" to Lake Conway.

Renaming Lake Conway required reinventing the simple and elegant Lake Conway to the ponderous and redundant Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Water Storage Reservoir. A reservoir by definition stores water.

And just how did that come to be? Campbell, a former member of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, is a huge fan of Conway Twitty, a former resident of Campbell's hometown of Helena-West Helena.

During his time on the Commission, Campbell's cellphone ring tone, which disrupted many a commission meeting, was Twitty's smash hit, "Hello, Darlin'."

And so the commission named the lake after Campbell (on a contentious 4-3 vote, I'm told) even though everybody still calls it Lake Conway, and they always will.

Coincidentally, that flame-up ended the commission's tradition -- permanently, we hope -- of naming public areas after its members.

Now, this latin animal business is all very strange, and it goes to show that victors in war not only get to write history, but they also get to name stuff. How did two species synonymous with Virginia, the essence of southern-ness, get tagged with the "northern" epithet? Northern cardinal and northern bobwhite quail? Give me a break. They have ruffed grouse -- excuse me, "pah-tridge" -- in the north. The bobwhite is a southern bird, as southern as sweet tea and pecan pie.

The people that matter, namely those that spend money and devote personal resources to make their property quail friendly, call them bobwhite quail.

Well, that's not exactly true either. You got your robins, you've got your cardinal, you've got your jaybirds and mallards. But quail are "birds" in the South, and everybody knows it.

Still, we immediately identify "bobwhite quail" as a 6-ounce bird with a white facemask (hens have buff masks), delicate mottled and barred plumage of black, brown, buff and white, and a mating call as distinctive as Satchmo Armstrong's voice.

His proper name was Louis Armstrong, but everybody knows what you mean when you say Satchmo, which was short for Satchel Mouth, his nickname at the orphanage where he was raised.

It's kind of like a gun snob's reflexive snit over the words "clip" and "magazine." The proper term for the part of a firearm that holds ammunition is magazine. A clip is a different device that's subordinate to the magazine, but clip and magazine are used interchangeably, and everybody understands the reference. Some things are worth fighting over and some aren't. That one isn't.

Speaking of Satchmo, if you had to choose, would it be Satchmo or B.B. King? I'm inclined to say Satch until I hear B.B. shred Willy Nelson's "Nightlife" on Austin City Limits.

B.B. King named his guitar Lucille in memory of a near fatal bar fight that occurred in the Cross* County community of Twist. Satchmo was from New Orleans. They're both as southern as sweet tea, pecan pie and bobwhite quail.

Speaking of bobwhite quail, our Sharp County correspondent, the Rev. Mike Stanley of Highland, said a small covey inhabits the brushy field behind Friendship Baptist Church. They are the first quail he's seen there in his 22 years as pastor.

Stanley also sent a video of bobwhite quail near Harold E. Alexander Spring River Wildlife Management Area. The quail ran down the road in front of Stanley's vehicle before flushing.

"You never saw this in previous years," Stanley texted.

Bobwhite is right. If one feels compelled to write a letter, email or text complaining about the use of the vulgar "bobwhite quail" over the haughty Latin name, we insist that the entire message be composed in Latin.

And please make sure it is grammatically correct.

Sports on 07/29/2018

*CORRECTION: A bar fight that served as inspiration for B.B. King naming his guitar Lucille occurred in the Cross County community of Twist. The wrong county was identified in a previous version of this column.

Print Headline: A quail by any other name is not Latin

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

Archived Comments

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT