While Juliet’s famous lines “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet” are, in practical sentiment, quite correct, given that there are well over one hundred different species in the Genus Rosa, changing them around randomly without some sense of order and few ground-rules applied to the process would make things very confusing indeed. However just because something is done in an orderly manner by no means indicates that it must be lacking in creativity.

In Michael Ohl‘s The Art of Naming, recently published by MIT Press in a new English translation from the original German by Elizabeth Lauffer, the history and practice of scientific naming is both presented as well as mused extensively upon with the intention of showing that far from being rigid and staid, the way in which names are assigned to species, as well as occasionally modified, is rich in creativity, cleverness, humor, and even at times used for the settling of scores.