It's an often-enjoyed practice in science that, if you discover something, you get to name it. Or, sometimes you get it named after you. Thus, Down's syndrome (chromosome #21 trisomy) was named after Langston Down; the Farad, or unit of capacitance in electricity, was named after Michael Faraday, and so forth.
Sometimes playful geneticists come up with clever names for genes. These make them easier to remember than their long, drawn-out biochemical names. Here's a few that have been so named by geneticists who work with drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly:
Ken and Barbie -- a gene in which the fruit fly does not develop external genitalia.
Cleopatra -- a gene that is lethal if the Asp gene is also present.
Dunce -- Involved in memory and learning.
Snafu -- The fruit fly starts out normal; but becomes progressively abnormal over time.
Breathless -- Affects the development of the trachea.
Stranded at Second -- This gene leaves the fruit fly stuck in the second stage of larval development.
Cheap date -- a gene that results in drosophila becoming increasingly sensitive to alcohol.
Kenny -- a gene which causes the fruit fly to die in an average of two days. Named after a character in South Park who dies in every episode.
I'm Not Dead Yet (INDY) -- A gene for longevity in which the fruit flies live twice as long, on an average; from The Holy Grail.
Out cold -- A fruit fly that loses coordination when the temperature drops.
Tinman -- The fruit fly embryos have no heart. (From the Wizard of Oz.)
Brainiac -- Gene results in larger brains than usual.
Lilliputian -- Gene produces undersized fruit flies.
However, there have been some criticisms of this carefree practice:
In my opinion, this is entirely wrong-headed. The giving of amusing names makes them easily remembered, and injects some needed humor into science. Contrary to popular belief, scientists can be interesting and fun; they should not be harnessed by a neo-puritanical ethos that discourages this playfulness.
Besides, do you really want to make science less appealing for millenials, a group known for irreverence?
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