Wednesday, February 2, 2022

SearchResearch Challenge (2/2/22): Search in a world of changing names?

Last week I took this photo of a
beautiful woodland flower... 

P/C Daniel M. Russell (2022)

I've always known this particular flower as Dodecatheon hendersonii, aka, a "shooting star" or "mosquito bills."  

If memory serves me correctly, this flower typically blooms in mid-February through mid-April.  So I went to check this in the CALFLORA website and was surprised to see a little notice in a pink highlight:  "No longer an active name."  

Really?  I know that flowers (and many animals) are under constant revisions as biologists learn more about them, usually with improved molecular genetic testing.  But I was surprised to learn that this flower has been recategorized into the Primula family, making its new binomial name Primula hendersonii!  

I did the search for this flower in the Jepson Manual (the authoritative source of plant names in California) and learned that the official name change happened in 2007 with the publication of "Transfer of Dodecatheon to Primula (Primulaceae)" by Mast, A. R., & Reveal, J. L., Brittonia, 59(1), 79-82 (2007).  

Boy did I feel out of touch!  

But it brought up an interesting question of how things change names over time and how we manage to navigate the shifting sands of names in our searches.  

Luckily, many (most?) publications will publish the original name as a synonym (or alias) along with the new name.  

The real question for us as searchers is suppose you don't know of the name change... how do you search then?  

This becomes an issue the farther back you go in time. You might recognize Londinium as an earlier name of London, and you know that Firenze is the Italian name for the city of Florence.  You might know that Mark Twain is another name for Samuel L. Clemens (the author), but did he use another other names?  

Here are three versions of alt-names that have been used for people, places, and things.  Can you figure out a search strategy for each?  

1. Speaking of Mark Twain, did he use any other names besides Mark Twain for writing?  (If so, what are they?) 

2. You know that Istanbul was once known as Constantinople (there's even a song about that!), but what was Saint Petersburg, Russia (that is, the city of Санкт-Петербург) called before its current name?  

3. What were projected moving images (what we would now label a "movie") called before 1900?  

It shouldn't take you long to answer these Challenges, but I want to learn HOW you found the answers.  Did you use a particular resource to get an answer?  

Search on! 


  1. I'm not going to post the answers, only my strategy. I asked Google Assistant on my Nest Hub display. On one or two questions the assistant didn't answer fully, BUT followed up with "People also ask me... Do you want to hear the answer?" That follow up gave me what I would consider to be a complete answer for each question.

  2. I googled "Mark Twain alias" and found the question "What are two of Mark Twain alias pen names?" And in Wikipedia, under "Mark Twain" is the subheading "Pen names," which lists two other pen names Clemens used.
    Googling "St. Petersburg other names" gave an option of "The Five Names of St. Peterburg" which listed 5 nicknames in addition to the official names of Petrograd and Leningrad.
    Googling "movies etymology" gave the question "What did people call movies before" --I had never heard of the word Zoetrope! and Wikipedia "film" gave "precursors" (shadowgraph, and 3 others), and "before celluloid" (flipbook and Zoetrope); also learned that they were called "animated photographs" and "living pictures."

  3. Hello Everyone!

    I'd use, as Anne did, pen names to find author previous names. Even when the real author could have many names. As an example, Nancy Drew writers.

    For cities and counties. Or famous things it is easier because in their History, the previous names are normally mentioned.

    For the movies question. I wonder if it's also mentioned in history. I'll check that.

    Also trying to find if there's a list of " No longer an active name," objects. This was the first time I read that. And, I think maybe there is a list or something that helps us being informed. I am thinking a list or like awards do when they show "In Memoriam" to remember does who left in the year.

    1. With [ list of names Санкт-Петербург]

      Sankt-Peterburg, Petrograd, Leningrad

      And with same query using Istanbul:

      To enforce the new name, all postages stating any other name were promptly returned to the sender after the 1930s. The name was not new, however, but rather a name used in common language before and during the Ottoman Empire. Etymologically, the name “İstanbul” can be translated to ‘in the city’. Source:

    2. Out of topic. And related to previous SRS Challenges

      Seed Dispersal by Explosion. Video by Smithsonian channel

    3. Londinium, was new for me. So, I searched [ London names through time]

      How London Got Its Name

      Some linguists suggest that they adapted an existing name, possibly Plowonida, from the pre-Celtic words plew and nejd, which together suggest a wide, flowing river (i.e. the Thames)...
      Around the year 368, the city was renamed Augusta, as shown on numerous coins from the era.

  4. 1) I started with Mark Twain and went for his biography - reasoning that if I put in "Samuel Langhorne Clemens" Biography I may get the answer. Nope - I got "Mark Twain" and perhaps other names but it was a case of TL:DR. So I tried again - to exclude "Mark Twain" and got nothing so I went for the jugular and put in "mark twain" "other names". That came up with a few sites e.g.,, Wikipedia and I'm not a fan of but this time it confirmed one of the answers which give several i.e. "Other pen names of Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) included Quintius Curtius Snodgrass, Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass and Josh, among others." and "The first time he used a pen name was in the early 1850s when he signed a sketch in his brother’s newspaper W. Epaminondas Adrastus Perkins”. adds Sieur Louis de Conte.

    2) I already knew that Leningrad was the name before St Petersberg but checked on Wikipedia in case there were other names. also gave Petrograd - used between 1914-1924.

    3) I found the "projected moving images" the hardest. Wikipedia's History of Film gives several names: e.g. Cinématographe. It also led to and terms like Zoetrope, Théâtre Optique, Phenakistiscope and others such as Kinetoscope, Zoopraxiscope and more. (There's a list of early "moving image" items at the bottom of the Precursors of Film page. A lot were not projections but some were. .

  5. 1. Speaking of Mark Twain, did he use any other names besides Mark Twain for writing? (If so, what are they?) Yes: Sieur Louis de Conte Sieur Louis de Conte: Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc › basis › conte-joanofarc
    The pseudonymous author's name - Sieur Louis de Conte [initials SLC] derives from Samuel Langhorne Clemens [initials SLC] also : Josh, Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, and Shania Twain.

    Here is a little cheat when looking for any named person

    2. You know that Istanbul was once known as Constantinople (there's even a song about that!), but what was Saint Petersburg, Russia (that is, the city of Санкт-Петербург) called before its current name?
    Istanbul (not Constantinople) Aaahhh is that Four Lads mid 50s?

    St. Petersburg, Russian Sankt-Peterburg, formerly (1914–24) Petrograd and (1924–91) Leningrad, city and port, extreme northwestern Russia. One of GT GT Grandpa's visited the port about 1881, thought it wasw about as bad as he had ever seen.

    3. What were projected moving images (what we would now label a "movie") called before 1900? stillie ?
    In 1888 in New York City, the great inventor Thomas Edison and his British assistant William Dickson worried that others were gaining ground in camera development. The pair set out to create a device that could record moving pictures. In 1890 Dickson unveiled the Kinetograph, a primitive motion picture camera.

    phenakistoscope, c. 1832) zoetrope, c. 1834 cinematography ca 1890 chronophotography Vitascope Mutoscope and Biograph; all from

    1. Are you SURE about Shania Twain? I'm not sure that was a pen name used by Clemens, but it is the name of a (current) popular singer, Shania Twain

  6. Don't forget Hal Holbrook who I saw on stage in Vancouver BC middle of Last Century.

  7. a partial
    survived the day of the groundhogs… wt?, another 60 weeks?? it was -21˚ near here this AM… and I'm not talking Point Barrow, but
    down here in the 48 — stay warm all…
    re, Samuel…
    nom de guerre;
    would Clemens have used "Samuel L. Jackson" if he was alive today? just wondering… I meander like the Mississippi…
    Bruce Twain or Bruce Wayne

    "Sieur Louis de Conte"
    Project Gutenberg
    ""I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well.
    -Mark Twain
    Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by the Sieur Louis de Conte (1896) was Mark Twain's last completed novel, offering a portrait of Joan of Arc (1412-1431), the French heroine and a national symbol of France. At the age of seventeen, she led a French army to defeat the English during the Hundred Years' War. In 1430, she was captured by a group of French nobles allied with the English and was burned at the stake by the English. In 1920, she was canonized as a Catholic Saint.
    Although not as well-known as some of Twain's other works, this is a beautiful piece of historical fiction."

    the meaning of 'Twain'
    "Clemens, himself, explained in "Life on the Mississippi" why he chose that particular moniker for his most famous novels. In this quote, he was referring to Horace E. Bixby, the grizzled pilot who taught Clemens to navigate the river during his two-year training phase:

    "The old gentleman was not of literary turn or capacity, but he used to jot down brief paragraphs of plain practical information about the river, and sign them 'MARK TWAIN,' and give them to the 'New Orleans Picayune.' They related to the stage and condition of the river, and were accurate and valuable; and thus far, they contained no poison.""

    signature… check the caves
    the gov't at work
    Ray Halstead, FSA (Farm Security Admnistration) rehabilitation borrower, pumping up a tire. Dead Ox Flat, Malheur County, Oregon (1941)
    Lee, Russell, 1903-1986, photographer

    Russel Lee
    2nd from the right
    since the LoC wasn't cooperating
    the SERP

    Petroleum V. Nasby — now that's a pen name, a Twain pal
    things to browse while warming:
    insta LoC
    flickr LoC

  8. I checked with WorldCat & LOC for aliases. Nothing new.

  9. Replies
    1. I haven't read it, though it looks interesting. But I seem to have lost the connection to this thread. Can you say why you've pointed us to this book?

    2. …took poor notes — best recollection — ran across a reference to Williams (may have been in TechCrunch) saw the Google connection
      & the idea of an internet ethicist sounded interesting – how searching shapes perception – went searching from there
      strayed a ways from mosquito bills…
      Tim Wu
      irony - Cambridge University Press
      lightly on twitter
      Oxford Internet Institute
      "James is a frequent speaker, consultant for companies and governments, and commentator on technology issues in the media. In addition to philosophy, ethics, and technology design, his interests include virtual/mixed reality systems, languages, space travel, and the work of James Joyce. His first computer was a TI-99/4A."
      adversarial persuasion
      chrome search history

    3. new tools: except in my case it would have to be called stumbles, not journeys…
      maybe what I needed

  10. Mark Twain nom de plume found this today
    Sergeant Fathom in 1859 in New Orleans Crescent