I agree with you completely. Often the use of terminology that varies from
context to context is quite confusing for those not familiar with the field.
As to the confusion of the use Adrenalin and epinephrine, as well as,
noradrenalin and norepinephrine, one just has to remember that each our
synonymous. The major reason for this divergence in terminology comes from
basically three aspects: the first is that epinephrine (Greek form) was
used traditionally by the British pharmacological camp, whereas adrenalin
was used by their North American colleagues. Looking back through the
history of neuroscience all the big North American universities, like
Harvard and Princeton, were not really that good initially. The European
institutions were by far more established and more respectable. As result
there was disparity early on with the terminology for description and most
of the big journals of the time were still predominantly European which
ended up still fueling the disparity in discourse. Actually in its early
days both Princeton and Harvard were pretty dismal places.
Secondly, most pharmacologists end up using epinephrine to describe the
ligand and adrenergic to describe the receptor or the plural transmitter
system. (just imagine the difficulty in pronouncing epinephrinergic
compared to adrenergic). (or the converse, norepinephrinergic never caught
on b/c of its own inherit difficulty in pronouncing). So basically it was a
The last major reason that I think the disparity arose was that the word
Adrenalin was appropriated by a drug company of the time (the name escapes
me at the moment) as a proprietary name. Thus, difficulty both legally and
technically would occurred when discussing these transmitter substances. So
the use general use of epinephrine was employed in order to be more
consistent. Generally most people people use the epinephrine for the
transmitter substance and adrenergic for the adjectival form. I
personally use the traditional British terminology for the ligand and North
American form discussing the receptor complex. (or adjectival form. For
example, noradrenergic terminals stemming from the locus ceruleus are
involved in wakefulness and alertness).
Let's also not forget that science is filled with numerous examples of
discourse problems. Another example in neuroscience pertains to the
incorrect translation of a word from Arabic origins to Latin. For example,
the outer and inner layers of the meninges are referred to as a "mothers"
(dura mater, pia mater). This was a problem from the translation of the
great tenth-century Persian physician, Ali ibn Abbas, who used to the term
"al umm" to refer to the meninges. Traditionally the dura was called al
umm al djfiya and the inner layer al umm al rigiga. The term does
literally mean "mother", however, it was also used to describe to any
swaddling material, because Arabic lack a term for membrane. When the
translation to Latin took place, the translator, made a literal translation.
Ergo, "hard mother" and "pious mother". Instead of the more appropriate
durus membrana or pious membrana terms.