JARS v58n1 - Commentary: What is a Name?

Commentary: What is a Name?
Robert Murray
Colts Neck, New Jersey

What is your reaction to "John Smith"? How about "Dwight D. Eisenhower" or "Bill Gates"? "John Smith" is an anonymous nobody, but you can visualize "Ike" and "Bill" because you can identify them! A name is useless unless it identifies. If everyone in town had the same name, how would individuals be identified? Plants are given names to identify them, but without a description and some system of control all plants may as well be called "John Smith."

Plant name registration is a system for providing a public listing of names with descriptions. If a number of plants all have the same name it becomes necessary to provide a description as well as a name in order to identify a particular plant. The International Plant Name Register makes life simpler by requiring a unique name for a selected clone, thus eliminating the need to provide a complete description each time a plant is to be identified. Plant name registration is simply a one-time effort to provide a description of a clone so that the plant may henceforth be identified by its name alone without the burden of providing a description.

If a "John Smith" were to be honored in some fashion, the award would be hollow indeed if which "John Smith" is not made clear. The same logic applies to plants. If a fine plant is to be recommended or is to be awarded some recognition, is it not essential that the plant not be an anonymous "John Smith"?