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Common Gull - origin of name

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Old Sunday 15th April 2012, 19:47   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Dudley View Post
Andrew is spot on, it was named Common after its habit of nesting on common land, usually the poor, damp grazing land in a district which the pheasant farmers were forced to graze their livestock on. So it was 'the gull of the common'.
I like the idea of pheasant farmers...
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Old Monday 16th April 2012, 09:25   #27
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Gull is called "Kamome" in Japan. And we call Common Gull "Kamome" in the same way.
However,Common Gull is not the majority in Japan either.
I thought that they would be the majority in the U.K.
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Old Monday 16th April 2012, 11:18   #28
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I always thought it meant Common Gull, because of its preference for commons (common land) and fields etc.
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Old Monday 16th April 2012, 12:40   #29
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Originally Posted by delia todd View Post
Before all this started I'd been thinking that 'Common' meant they were distributed widely over many countries and even continents. In this case Common (Mew) Gull is found in North America, Europe and Asia.

Having looked at some of the 'common' birds and their habitats, some are found in forests, which doesn't really sound like common land to me, at least as we know it today.
I think in the majority of cases the name 'common' does refer to abundance or familiarity. Just that in this instance it doesn't. And I cant remember my original references for this. I researched the name 15+ years ago and found several medieval/historical texts referring to this being the gull of common land. but someone has already given Dave Okill's reference earlier, but Dave doesn't give a reference for his statement.

I think when we discuss the origins of bird names we have to consider them in a historical context, particularly for common or familiar species. Historically birds will have been known by different local communities by different names. Some of these might be very similar, some may be very different. Such historical (and I'm talking 400 years plus here) names can have their origins in appearance, sound, habitat, abundance, familiarity, affection, with reference to other species (e.g. pliver's page for Dunlin), lore and legend. For example, Wren Troglodytes troglodytes has 164 known vernacular names (here's a selection to show just how divers these are -jenny-squit, jenny-cruddle, jenny, jenny-wren, jenny-wran, jinny-wren, Loughgilly, jinny-ran, jinny-wranl, jennywaren, jenner-hen, giller-wren, gilliver-wren, julliver-wren, kitty, kitty-wren, kitty-raan, kitty-tope, katie-wren, kitty-me-wren, brown kitty, brown kittywren, kitty-tope, nantit, nanny-fudger, peggy, sally, bob-wren, bobby-wren, robbie-cuddy, stumpy-dick, joe-cutt, joey-cutty, tommy-liden, tom-in-the-wall, tomtit, thomas-gierdet - thanks to Andy Gosler, EGI Oxford, who happen to present on this last week at the BOU annual conference and whose list of Wren names I therefore had to hand to sue here rather than having to compile it myself!).

It is only as people began to travel more that bird names began to stabilize/standardize as bird names were exchanged and some stuck and others receded in use, and it was only with the publication of the first texts that some names really began to take precedence over other names nationally. The first real text for this was A History of Birds (1815, Anon) which listed 64 'standard' vernacular names. The poet John Clare added 75 to this initial list. Yarrell's A History of British Birds (1871-85) picked up the thread and accepted only 33 of 64 of the list from 1815 (seemingly ignoring Clare - presumably cos he was seen as a fancy and poet rather than a serious naturalist by the established naturalists of the day), to which Alfred Newton (founder of the BOU) added another 80 species for his revision of Yarrell (again, my thanks to Andy Gosler for this summary which I have to hand).

You can see by the dates involved that the adoption of national level, rather then local/regional level, vernacular names took a long time to get going and an age for names to become adopted and it wasn't really until Victorian times onwards, when books became much more commonplace, that national level vernacular names really started to take hold and became the names which reached the field guides from the 1950 onwards and became the names we all are familiar with today.

The next step was then the globalization of bird names leading to the IOC's international standard English names which commenced in the 1980s and eventually lead to the website 'IOC World Bird Names' in 2009. These are complementary to vernacular names and do not place them at the local (national/regional) level but have helped to cement some newer vernacular names.
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Old Monday 16th April 2012, 12:43   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lazza View Post
I like the idea of pheasant farmers...
;-)

They do exist tho - I have several farmers near me here in the fens farming thousand of pheasants for release each year (and there not released for me to look at either)
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Old Monday 16th April 2012, 12:58   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Dudley View Post
I think in the majority of cases the name 'common' does refer to abundance or familiarity. Just that in this instance it doesn't. And I cant remember my original references for this. I researched the name 15+ years ago and found several medieval/historical texts referring to this being the gull of common land. but someone has already given Dave Okill's reference earlier, but Dave doesn't give a reference for his statement.

I think when we discuss the origins of bird names we have to consider them in a historical context, particularly for common or familiar species. Historically birds will have been known by different local communities by different names. Some of these might be very similar, some may be very different. Such historical (and I'm talking 400 years plus here) names can have their origins in appearance, sound, habitat, abundance, familiarity, affection, with reference to other species (e.g. pliver's page for Dunlin), lore and legend. For example, Wren Troglodytes troglodytes has 164 known vernacular names (here's a selection to show just how divers these are -jenny-squit, jenny-cruddle, jenny, jenny-wren, jenny-wran, jinny-wren, Loughgilly, jinny-ran, jinny-wranl, jennywaren, jenner-hen, giller-wren, gilliver-wren, julliver-wren, kitty, kitty-wren, kitty-raan, kitty-tope, katie-wren, kitty-me-wren, brown kitty, brown kittywren, kitty-tope, nantit, nanny-fudger, peggy, sally, bob-wren, bobby-wren, robbie-cuddy, stumpy-dick, joe-cutt, joey-cutty, tommy-liden, tom-in-the-wall, tomtit, thomas-gierdet - thanks to Andy Gosler, EGI Oxford, who happen to present on this last week at the BOU annual conference and whose list of Wren names I therefore had to hand to sue here rather than having to compile it myself!).

It is only as people began to travel more that bird names began to stabilize/standardize as bird names were exchanged and some stuck and others receded in use, and it was only with the publication of the first texts that some names really began to take precedence over other names nationally. The first real text for this was A History of Birds (1815, Anon) which listed 64 'standard' vernacular names. The poet John Clare added 75 to this initial list. Yarrell's A History of British Birds (1871-85) picked up the thread and accepted only 33 of 64 of the list from 1815 (seemingly ignoring Clare - presumably cos he was seen as a fancy and poet rather than a serious naturalist by the established naturalists of the day), to which Alfred Newton (founder of the BOU) added another 80 species for his revision of Yarrell (again, my thanks to Andy Gosler for this summary which I have to hand).

You can see by the dates involved that the adoption of national level, rather then local/regional level, vernacular names took a long time to get going and an age for names to become adopted and it wasn't really until Victorian times onwards, when books became much more commonplace, that national level vernacular names really started to take hold and became the names which reached the field guides from the 1950 onwards and became the names we all are familiar with today.

The next step was then the globalization of bird names leading to the IOC's international standard English names which commenced in the 1980s and eventually lead to the website 'IOC World Bird Names' in 2009. These are complementary to vernacular names and do not place them at the local (national/regional) level but have helped to cement some newer vernacular names.
Wow! Thanks for an excellent post Steve. As someone with a interest in etymology in general, that was really informative.

I had always assumed that names for birds varies over geography and time, and wondered whether the Common Gull's name came about as a result of variance of usage in the past.

Perhaps worthy of a new thread, but my original poser about the Common Gull has got me wondering about how common or otherwise species have been in the past. Collared Dove status change is well known, and most people know of the change in populations of raptors in recent decades. But I wonder how other species of birds' populations have changed over time with changing prevailing climatic conditions, urbanisation and land use.
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Old Monday 16th April 2012, 14:13   #32
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Thanks very much for that Steve. 'Fraid I'll need to read it a few more times to really understand it all.

Where I'd been coming from was linking the thousands of birds in Opus and not being able to 'guess' whether they were European, Eurasian or Common which made me (eventually) think that Common had a wider spread.

Am I right in thinking (I may well not be LOL) that some of the new splits have been named Common?

As I said, I'll need to read your post a few more times.

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Old Monday 16th April 2012, 15:26   #33
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As far as I know, those naming new splits avoid 'common' as an identifier for obvious reasons and thats why we are seeing a proliferation of Eurasian, European, etc.

As an example, BOU was recently asked about Wren Troglodytes troglodytes as Winter Wren is now split and the American's are retaining Winter Wren for Troglodytes hiemalis, so our Wren needed a new internaional identify. Some suggested we use Jenny Wren because it was a widely used historical name (and still well known) but that is only at the British level, so to avoid Common Wren (which is isnt throughout the world), we had to recommend Eurasian since this is a widely accepted identifier and the meaning of which is obvious.
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Old Monday 16th April 2012, 15:29   #34
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Originally Posted by Stoggler View Post
Wow! Thanks for an excellent post Steve. As someone with a interest in etymology in general, that was really informative.

I had always assumed that names for birds varies over geography and time, and wondered whether the Common Gull's name came about as a result of variance of usage in the past.

Perhaps worthy of a new thread, but my original poser about the Common Gull has got me wondering about how common or otherwise species have been in the past. Collared Dove status change is well known, and most people know of the change in populations of raptors in recent decades. But I wonder how other species of birds' populations have changed over time with changing prevailing climatic conditions, urbanisation and land use.
The change in populations, at UK level, are well known and plenty of information online via BTO website (I think the section is called BirdFacts or similar). Annual BTO, RSPB, and others also publish 'The State of the UK's Birds'. Again, this should be available on the BTO website. Not sure if there is anything available online for European population trends. I'm sure there is for the US.
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Old Monday 16th April 2012, 16:03   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Dudley View Post
As far as I know, those naming new splits avoid 'common' as an identifier for obvious reasons and thats why we are seeing a proliferation of Eurasian, European, etc.

As an example, BOU was recently asked about Wren Troglodytes troglodytes as Winter Wren is now split and the American's are retaining Winter Wren for Troglodytes hiemalis, so our Wren needed a new internaional identify. Some suggested we use Jenny Wren because it was a widely used historical name (and still well known) but that is only at the British level, so to avoid Common Wren (which is isnt throughout the world), we had to recommend Eurasian since this is a widely accepted identifier and the meaning of which is obvious.
Thanks Steve.

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Old Tuesday 17th April 2012, 01:45   #36
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And, since "mew" is simply an old word for "gull", "Mew Gull" means "Gull Gull", yet another testimony to the "ordinariness" with which the species has been regarded.
I was told the term "mew" was a reference to its cat-like call. And I do find it quite cat-like...a coincidence?
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Old Tuesday 17th April 2012, 02:33   #37
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I was told the term "mew" was a reference to its cat-like call. And I do find it quite cat-like...a coincidence?
Yes, I should think so, since in English "mew" originally meant any gull, not Larus canus specifically. The same is true if I'm not mistaken of its cognates in German & other modern Germanic languages which also just mean "gull".

But, an interesting point, which maybe helps explain why the name "Mew" got reattached to the North American version of the species, supplanting the older "Short-billed Gull".

I just checked the big Sibley (p.212), BTW, which describes the call as "less harsh & more mewing" than the Ring-billed call.
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Old Tuesday 17th April 2012, 06:44   #38
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Yes, I should think so, since in English "mew" originally meant any gull, not Larus canus specifically. The same is true if I'm not mistaken of its cognates in German & other modern Germanic languages which also just mean "gull".
Yes, as discussed on another recent thread, Dutch for Gull is Meeuw, and German is Mwe.
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Old Tuesday 17th April 2012, 14:18   #39
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Yes, as discussed on another recent thread, Dutch for Gull is Meeuw, and German is Mwe.
Richard,
An apt and timely post as always, conforming with that old theatrical advice to 'leave them wanting Mwe'...
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Old Monday 23rd April 2012, 00:39   #40
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I've heard both the "common land" explanation and the "common" meaning "generic/featureless" one... the latter was the one that occurred independently to me, as they are sort of "in the middle" of all the other... "commonly occurring" gulls in terms of appearance, with no real feature to distinguish them. They actually do seem to be common around the North Cheshire/South Manchester area though (probably second in numbers to Black-headed, with LBB and Herring a fairly distant third and fourth), which is a contrast to most inland areas further south, where anything other than a Black-headed is unusual away from lakes/reservoirs...
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