If it wasn't for Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus or as he preferred, Carolus linnaeus or just plain Linnaeus, we still may be officially calling the plant, Spiderwort, something like 'Tradescantia ephemerum phalandoides tripetalum non repans virginianum gramineum' which translates as 'The annual upright tradescantia from Virginia with a non-creeping grass-like habit three petals and stamens with hairs like spider's legs'.
In the days prior to 1753, the existing naming system for new flora and fauna was lengthy with up to 12 Latin words describing the qualities of each plant or animal.
So Linnaeus modified the system, using only 2 Latin words, the first being the Genus and the second the species, the latter of which described the plant— for example, grandiflora (big flowers) or sometimes the discoverer's name, like banksii (discovered by Joseph Banks). Hence the latin name for Spiderwort is Trandescantia virginiana.
The naming shorthand is called the binomial system with the Genus always beginning with a Capital letter while the species starts with a lower case letter. And to top it off, the binomial is always written in Italics. If writing the binomial by hand, you must underline it as this is the editorial marking for italics. The Common Name—eg Spiderwort—is written in Roman (upright letters). There's more to writing botanical names, especially in regards to subspecies, hybrids, cultivars (cultivated varieties) and others. See here.
What I like about the story is that once Carl Linnaeus had introduced his binomial nomenclature system to the world, he asked the King if you could be called by his own binomial of which he was granted the pleasure. That's why we know him now as Carolus linnaeus. The king also honoured him with a noble title of Carl von Linné.
Linnaeus classified not only plants but animals too. So, a Tiger became Panthera tigris and a Grizzly bear, Ursus arctos horribilis, and so on...
His motto is great : Omnia mirari etiam tritissima
– Find wonder in all things, even the most common place.
Most of this info I gleaned from Adland's Student Handbook for
the study of Plant Form by Michèle Adler ©1997