The promiscuous use of promiscuous in zoology papers

Elgar_M_45Watch your language about promiscuity, suggest Elgar, Jones and McNamara — and watch out for other people’s language. Their study explains:

Promiscuous Words,Mark A Elgar [pictured here , above left], Therésa M Jones [pictured here below, right] and Kathryn B McNamara, Frontiers in Zoology, 2013, 10:66. (Thanks to Ed Yong for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at the University of Melbourne and the University of Western Australia, report:

Jones_T_69“Promiscuity is frequently used to describe animal mating behaviour, and especially to describe multiple mating by females. Yet this use of the term is incorrect, perhaps reflecting an erroneous adoption of common language to pique reader interest. We evaluated the patterns of use and misuse of the word ‘promiscuity’ in a representative journal of animal behaviour. This survey highlights how inappropriately the term is used, and how it can conceal critical features of animal mating strategies with intriguing evolutionary significance.”

One section of the paper bears the subheadline “Using promiscuity to titillate the reader?”

BONUS (unrelated): “Specificity and promiscuity among naturally processed peptides bound to HLA-DR alleles