Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Continuing with my list housekeeping. Over the last year I have collected a number of botanical terms that are of interest to me. Some of them I recorded during my reading of Palmer.
Barberry: Several species of barberry are used as hedging. By late summer barberry bushes are dotted with bright red berries. But the berries have nothing to do with the name of the shrub. The “-berry” part of “barberry” is a corruption of the Latin word for the plant, berberis. Where the Romans originally got the term, no one seems to know.
Chestnut: The word “chestnut” looks like it might be some combination of “chest” and “nut.” The hard outer shell is arguably a nut chest, but the English word “chestnut” is actual a blend of an older Greek term for a city, Castanea, and the word “nut.”
Parsley piert: Aphanes arvensis is a European plant that has been introduced into other areas of the world. Once you learn to recognize this tiny weed, you will start seeing it everywhere (A picture is here. The plant in the picture is only about a centimeter across.). The English name “parsley piert” comes from the French word perce pierre, which presumably denoted the plants ability to break (percer) stones (pierre). In English the plant was, for a time, known as “pierce-stone.” The transformation of the first part of the French name into “parsley” acknowledges the cleft, parsley-like leaves of the plant.
Tangle: The various species of Laminaria, a kelp found in temperate climate oceans, are widely known as “tangle” or “sea tangle.” Large amounts of twisted, dislodged tangle wash up on our own Vancouver Island beaches. The noun “tangle,” whose earliest English examples first appeared in the sixteenth century, almost certainly derives from tang, the Norse word for seaweed. The verb “tangle,” meaning to intertwine, hamper, encumber, arrived in English a century before the seaweed noun. The exact source of the verb is not certain, but there is no evidence that the early senses of the verb had any connection with the Norse word for seaweed. Later semantic evolution of the verb, however, was no doubt influenced by a supposed connection to the name of the kelp, and most modern users of the noun “tangle” probably associate the word with the verb “tangle.”
Interesting etymology of chestnut, thanks – the modern German is die Kastanie, pronounced to rhyme with Narnia, as I imagine the Greek Castanea would be too
Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will buy a ridiculous hat – Scott Adams (author of Dilbert)
Build a man a fire and he will be warm for a day; set a man on fire and he will be warm for the rest of his life – Terry Pratchett