Follow TV Tropes

Binomium Ridiculus

Go To

The specific use of Canis Latinicus for parody species names

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
Schol-R-LEA on Jun 11th 2018 at 8:12:19 AM
Last Edited By:
Schol-R-LEA on Jun 13th 2018 at 4:11:43 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Now, if you look over here, you will see that we have an example Tropinius autodescriptans which was recently mounted for display. Note the fine Latinate canines. As you can see, this particular T. autodescriptans is of the schisomates subspecies, which is believed to have split off from the parent Canis Latinicus some time in the mid-18th century...

Or put another way, Canis Latinicus as specifically applied to ersatz species names, used either to make something sound scientific, or to poke fun at such uses.

In biology, the formal naming system used for describing species is known as binomial nomenclature (that is to say, 'naming using two names'). It was developed by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeusnote  in the early part of the 1700s as part of the larger system he created for classifying organisms. His system grouped animals by their observed similarities (which later work refined into grouping by their presumed common descent, a la Darwinian evolution) with the groups at the top (originally 'Animalia' and 'Plantae') being the broadest and each successive level branching out to more specific groups, until finally reaching the generic (genus) and specific (species) categories whose names are paired to form the 'official' name of the kind of organism.

Linnaeus himself gave names to thousands of species and genera (as well as the families, orders, classes, phyla, and finally kingdoms which they were grouped into) in this manner, and all of the names he chose were composed of either Latin roots, or Greek ones, or some combination of the two. For example, his name for human beings is Homo sapiens, which is the Latin for 'wise man'.

It has since been customary to form new names from Latin or Greek roots when describing a newly-discovered creature, but it isn't required. The only real rules are that the name be given in the form Genus species (that is, with the generic name capitalized and the specific name lowercase); that it doesn't duplicate a namenote ; and that the first name given (if the organism is 'discovered' by different people at different times) has priority, so long as everyone agrees that it is valid and can come to a conclusion about where it fits in the 'tree of life' (which is not nearly as straightforward as it sounds).

It is preferred that the name describes the organism, but it isn't enforced, and even when it is, the use of Greco-Latinate roots (or even roots from unrelated languages, such as classic Sanskrit or modern Mandarin Chinese), or even just Latin sounding roots, can make it hard for someone unfamiliar with the roots to guess what it means.

Getting to name a new species is Serious Business, but part of that business is getting a chance to put your personal mark on the species name, so a certain amount of whimsy is allowed. As a result, Binomium Ridiculus is often Truth in Television, as they discoverers can use almost anything that their fancy: place names (usually where the specimen was found, but not always), names based on the discoverers' names, names of the expedition's patrons, names of famous individuals who have some tenuous resemblance or connection to the organism, anything.

Well-known examples in recent years have included Hallucigena sparsa (a fossil so strange it was described as resembling something seen during a drug trip), Kiwa tyleri (named for the discoverer, Paul Tyler; for double fun, the common name in English is 'Hoff crab', because its large mats of cilia are thought to resemble David Hasselhoff's famous rug of chest hair), Tullimonstrum gregarium ("Tully's Monster", a common but puzzling fossil invertebrate which defied classification), and Agra schwarzeneggeri (named for its well-defined musculature which is described as resembling Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime). The Other Wiki has a Long List of species named after celebrities.

Given all of this, it is natural for writers to make fun of these sorts of names, or at least mimic them when trying to sounds smart.


  • Looney Tunes: the Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner cartoons are a Trope Codifier for the parody use; in the opening scenes of several of them, the action suddenly pauses as a freeze frame showing either the Roadrunner or Wile E. Coyote in a pose reminiscent of a museum diorama, with the Roadrunner given names such as Speedius birdius or Speedometrus Rapidus, and the Coyote ones like Ravenus catchineatum or Famishus Famishus. Similar uses appear in other Looney Tunes series, and the later Tiny Toon Adventures also followed this at times.

Feedback: 9 replies

Jun 11th 2018 at 9:00:42 AM

WesternAnimation.My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Recap.My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic S 1 E 15 Feeling Pinkie Keen: Twilight is observing Pinkie Pie, scientific name Pinkius pieicus, in its natural habitat, and she totally didn't just make that up.

Literature.Tales Of The Five Hundred Kingdoms: In The Fairy Godmother, it is said that "dragonets [...] were the much smaller, unintelligent subspecies of Draconis Sapiens". Draconis Sapiens is presumably the designation for sapient dragons, which appear later in the series.

Raid Canis Latinicus. Well, I guess you're doing that already:

  • In a commercial for Energizer batteries featuring Wile E. Coyote, Wile E. is introduced as "Pursuis Rabbitus Energizus", and the Energizer battery that powers the Energizer Bunny is introduced as "Powerus Never Stopus".

Real Life, this and its subbullets:

  • Scientists, when naming new species, will often name them after famous scientists or political figures

Jun 12th 2018 at 5:24:36 AM

The following are expanded versions of the first two Dungeons And Dragons entries on the Canis Latinicus page.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons And Dragons
    • 1st Edition Advanced D&D. Most dragons are in the family Draco and have Canis Latinicus genus, species and subspecies names that reflect their natures or Breath Weapon.
      • The Monster Manual had the following: Black = Causticus Sputem, Blue = Electricus, Brass = lmpudentus Gallus, Bronze = Gerus Bronzo, Copper = Comes Stabuli, Gold = Orientalus Sino Dux, Green = Chlorinous Nauseous Respiratorus, Red = Conflagratio Horriblis, Silver = Nobilis Argentum, White = Rigidus Frigidus.
      • Monster Manual II. Cloud = Cumulus Welkin, Mist = Nebulus Obscura.
    • Basic D&D supplement GAZ10 The Orcs of Thar. The humanoid species are given Latin-sounding genus, species (and sometimes subspecies) names.
      • Bugbears: Ursus Bipedis Bugburianis, Ursus Bipedis Vulgaris, Ursus Bipedis Hyborianis
      • Gnolls: Canis Erectus Meridionum, Canis Erectus Septentrionum, Canis Erectus Hilarus
      • Goblins: Goblinus Occidensis, Goblinus Oriensis, Goblinus Goblinus, Goblinus Hyborianus
      • Hobgoblins: Goblinus Fortis, Goblinus Grandis
      • Kobolds: Canis Minor Militaris, Canis Minor Rapidus, Canis Minor Numerus
      • Ogre: Homo Monstrum Bellicosus, Homo Monstrum Brutalis, Homo Monstrum Grossus
      • Common Orc: Orcus Porcus, Orcus Hyborianis, Orcus Imperator Rex

Jun 12th 2018 at 5:01:44 AM

^ - "Bronze" instead of "Bronz"?

Jun 12th 2018 at 5:53:16 AM

I think at the moment the description spends too much time describing how nomenclature works in real life and not enough describing how the trope is used — it seems like around seven paragraphs talking about how this works officially, and then a sentence at the end hinting at how this trope is used in fiction. Personally, I would expand on how and why this is used in fiction and move the real life examples in the second-to-last paragraph to the example list under Real Life.

Oh, and some examples from Canis Latinicus:

  • Looney Tunes:
    • Many of Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner cartoons introduce the pair with fake scientific names usually derived in this manner. Examples include Speedometrus Rapidus for the Roadrunner, and Famishus Famishus for the Coyote. One cartoon even gave the Roadrunner's "beep, beep" a scientific name ("beepus-beepus").
      • Subverted in 2003's "Whizzard of Ow" in which the actual binomial names were used: Canis latrans for the Coyote (barking dog — ironic when you realize Wile E. almost never speaks) and Geococcyx californianus for the Road-runner (Californian cuckoo that runs on land).
      • The Bugs/Wile E. outing "Rabbit's Feat" has Wile E. in pursuit of the common western rabbit. "Rabbitus Idioticus Delicious... I believe that's the scientific term for it."
      • And in "Stop! Look! And Hasten!" Wile E.'s Burmese Tiger Trap catches a Burmese Tiger, Surprisibus! Surprisibus!
    • Tiny Toon Adventures had one short called "Love Stinks", which introduced Calamity Coyote as "Devius Coyotius", Little Beeper as "Expedious Birdius", and Fifi le Fume as "Sexius Skunkius". Amazing that the censors let that pass...
  • The Simpsons:
    • One episode gave a direct nod to the Road Runner series by having a freeze-framed Bart and Homer identified as "Bratus Donthaveacowious", and "Homo Neadrathalus" respectively.
    • Another Road Runner parody appears at the beginning of "The Scorpion's Tale", where a photorealistic roadrunner and coyote and labeled Propertus Warnerbros and Copyrightus MCMXLIX respectively. Otto then runs over the roadrunner and is labeled Licensis suspendibus.

Jun 12th 2018 at 6:05:38 AM

  • In the Dan Brown novel Deception Point, an article mentions a newly discovered deep sea fish called "Ugly Fishfromhellius", which the viewpoint character notes will probably not end up as the official name.

Jun 12th 2018 at 6:30:50 AM

This is a common way of naming a Whateversaurus - just add "-saurus" to any word to create a fake scientific name.

Jun 12th 2018 at 12:02:01 PM

  • In the Bugs Bunny short "Gorilla My Dreams", Bugs identifies himself as a Rodentus Rabbitus.
  • The Goofy short Freewayphobia No. 1, has him play the three types of bad freeway drivers, each given a scientific name: the Timid Driver (Driverius timidicus), the Impatient Driver (Motoramus fidgitus) and the Distracted Driver (Neglecterus maximus). The sequel Goofy's Freeway Trouble (Freewayphobia No. 2) has him as Stupiditus ultimas the Careless Driver, although for most of the short he's identified as Mr. X.

Jun 12th 2018 at 5:26:59 PM

The paragraphs about the use of binomial nomeclature in real life can be put in the Analysis page.

Jun 13th 2018 at 4:11:43 PM

Video Games

  • In Conkers Bad Fur Day, when Professor von Kriplespac presents his idea of using a squirrel as a replacement leg for the Panther King's table, he names the species "Furrius Squidgetarius".