A statement on behalf of BES Tropical Ecology and BES Conservation

On est trop con? – The dangers of conference naming in an international community

We named our joint TROPical ecology and CONservation conference ‘TropCon’. It seemed like a good idea at the time but we were so excited by the event itself that we forgot to do some basic checks on the name. The checks we thought to do were:

  1. Does it say something about the nature of the conference (i.e. that it’s tropical/conservation)
  2. Is the hashtag in use already?

The answers to those questions were exactly what we hoped. We just didn’t wonder why #TropCon20 had avoided use thus far. Forty-eight hours later, the hashtag is picking up some serious steam in the French-speaking world and the reasons have become abundantly clear!

For any non-French-speakers reading this, ‘trop con’ translates approximately to ‘too stupid’ but with a bit of extra zing that the phrase in English doesn’t quite manage to impart.

While we certainly all have feelings about the current year and the way it is behaving, a direct attack on the wisdom of 2020 was not what we were going for with our conference hashtag. Nor were we trying to imply anything negative about the quality of research we know will be presented at our conference. We just didn’t think. A couple of us on the organising committee are especially kicking ourselves because we actually speak French as a second language and in other circumstances would have noticed this. Our brains were in English mode however and, with the obvious intended meaning at the front of our minds, we couldn’t see what was staring us in the face.

When we were inevitably made aware of the conference hashtag’s French meaning, shortly after our announcement, we immediately checked in with French colleagues. They reassured us that it was an utterly hilarious but ultimately benign mistake. Regardless, we apologise for any offence caused.

In the end, this has certainly been a learning experience for us. We suspect this will be a story we keep telling for years to come and we honestly hope that you do too. At the heart of it, every conference is an opportunity to exchange knowledge and bring communities together. We have already learnt a lot more than expected and, although the community response wasn’t quite what we imagined, we’ve seen more laughs and joyful interactions surrounding this conference than we could have possibly hoped. In a year like 2020, we are glad to have brought a little extra happiness through a silly mistake.

The conference will be renamed to TropiCon20, which (as far as we are aware) has only the additional meaning of ‘I fell with’ in Spanish. We certainly tripped up with the original name so it seems rather appropriate.

We hope to see you at TropiCon20 for lots of fantastic tropical ecology and conservation. If it gets anywhere near the attention that our hashtag announcement did, we are certain that this will be one of the most engaging and informative conferences of our lives.

 Robin Hayward (on behalf of the organising team for TropiCon20)

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