A Bouquet of Words


Some names form a bouquet of words
The story behind famous flowers
From the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, Lawrence, Massachusetts,
Monday, November 9, 1987
By Richard Lederer – looking at language
My dear mother sent this to me.


The ancient gods snatched up the souls of those mortals who had found favor in their eyes and made them into stars to shine long after their earthly deaths.

A special group of men and women have been similarly gifted with a measure of immortality by having their names transformed into common English words. Because of some invention (James Bowie and the bowie knife), object (Amelia Bloomer and bloomers), process (Louis Pasteur and pasteurization), deed (Elbridge Gerry and gerrymander) or attribute of character (William Spooner and spoonerism) associated with them, these immortal mortals continue to shine in the heavens of our language long after they have departed the earthly stage.

(Above, Picture in the article)

Among these eponyms, as they are called, is a bouquet of men destined for a fragrant immortality in the names of flowers. Here is a brief biography of each eponym. Can you name each flower? The answers are below.

1. Michael Begon (1638-1710) was governor of Santo Domingo.

2. Louis Antoine de Bogainville (1729-1811) was a French navigator who discovered the Solomon Islands (the largest of which is known as Bougainville) and brought home from the tropics a woody vine.

3. Anders Dahl was an 18th century Swedish botanist. Dahl’s teacher, Carolus Linnaeus, originated the binomal method of designating plants and animals and named a flower after his pupil, who must have given a lot of apples to his teacher.

4. William Forsythe (1737-1804) was superintendent of the Royal Gardens of St. James and Kensington. It was he who brought to England the pretty, yellow flowers that first grew in China.

5. Elias Magnus Fries (1794-1878) was a Swedish botanist who established the modern classification on fungi and lichens.

6. Leonhard Fuchs (1501-1566) was a German physician and botanist who has become immortalized in both a flower and a color. Remembering Fuchs’ name will help you to spell the flower and color correctly.

7. Alexander Garden (1730-1791) was an American botanist.

8. Pierre Magnol (1638-1715) was a French botanist.

9. A Mexican legend tells of a penniless boy who presented to the Christ Child a beautiful plant with scarlet leaves that resembled the star of Bethlehem. The Mexicans named the plant “flor de la Noche Buena” (flower of the holy night).
     In 1828, Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851), the first U.S. minister to Mexico, discovered the flower there and brought it to this country, where it was named in his honor. The handsome flower is now popular at Christmastime and is one of the most misspelled and mispronounced words in the English language.

10. Caspar Wistar (1761-1818) was a psychologist who wrote the first American textbook on anatomy. He succeeded Thomas Jefferson as president of the American Philosophical Society and was such a popular host that a friend of his, a Portuguese diplomat and botanist, named the climbing, woody vine after Wistar.

11. Johann Gottfried Zinn (1727-1759) was a German botanist and professor of medicine who lent his name to several structures of the eye as well as to a colorful garden flower.

12. Identify two characters from ancient Greek mythology who live on in the names of flowers.

A Flowery Quiz
A number of common words and expressions in our language spring from the soil. Fill in each blank with a flower or gardening term.
13. Fresh as a ______
14. a shrinking ______
15. a wall ______
16. a ______-livered coward
17. came smelling like a  ______
18. a late ______
19. nip in the ______
20. something ordinary is sometimes called  ______-variety
21. an effeminate man is sometimes disparaged as a ______


A Bouquet of answers
Here are the answers to the flowering questions:
1. begonia
2. bougainvillea
3. dahlia
4. forsythia
5. freesia
6. fuchsia
7. gardenia
8. magnolia
9. poinsettia; preferred pronunciation is poin-SET-ee-a
10. wisteria (or wistaria)
11. zinnia
12. examples include iris, narcissus and iphigenia
13. daisy
14. violet
15. flower
16. lily
17. rose
18. bloomer
19. bud
20. garden
21. pansy

My mother used to send me interesting newspaper articles back when my daughter was little and we lived in Iowa. This article was in my hometown newspaper (Lawrence, MA) and she thought I would be interested. I was and I still am! So I am now sharing this with people who come to my Web site! Hope you enjoy!
Wish I had the rest of the stuff she sent to me, I'd type them all in to share! You got anything you'd like to share from the 1980s or before and would like it typed up then send it to me at my email address, or email me and I'll send you my address and scan it in for you.
My email address is on the front page of my site these days. ~ Added December 27, 2017

Posted May 7, 2012

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