Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2015-05-30
The poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima*, is a natural plant to associate with Christmas, with its bright red and green colour scheme**. When I was growing up, I think I heard it referred to as a poinsetta as often as a poinsettia. It was named after the American statesman and botanist Poinsett, who imported it from its native Mexico. In Nahuatl, it’s called a skin flower, perhaps because of use as a dye.
I see naming it a pointsetter in reference to its pointed leaves and bracts, which are characteristic of many subtropical plants that endeavour to shed water from their leaves as quickly as possible. Here’s a wiki pic that was too large to put in this post, showing the pointed subtropical drip-tips on the poinsettia’s leaves and bracts: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c … C3%9F.jpg.
There are loads of permutations with prefixes ‘poin’, ‘point’ combining with ‘setter’, ‘setta’ and settia’. Pointsetter seemed most eggcornish. You would think that pointsetters would flourish best in nonrhotic soils.
pointsetter plant: How can you aquire red flowers on it this Chistmas as it`s one year old then?
On plant point setter
http://www.growsonyou.com/question/show … tter-plant
Christmas pointsetter – $30
Date: 2009-12-13, 9:15PM CST
Large silk Christmas pointsetter, will look pretty year after year.
* Euphorbus was a 1st century physician who may have used the plant medicinally. pulcherrima indicates “superlative pulchritude”.
** In Spain it’s associated with Easter, which makes sense as well.
David Bird wrote
When I was growing up, I think I heard it referred to as a poinsetta as often as a poinsettia.
I have a childhood memory of being lectured—rather sternly—by an adult who claimed that the second i was silent and that “poinsetta” was the only correct pronunciation. The lecture apparently worked—“poin-set-tee-a” sounds funny to me today.
Yes, I think the majority of the time the second i is silent. It occurs to me that the motive is to connect it with the diminutive “etta”, as in Henrietta and her sister Poinsetta. That would make it an Annietta Lehman.
David B wrote:
In Nahuatl, it’s called a skin flower, perhaps because of use as a dye.
Nahuatl etymologies are often doubtful in my mind. In the modern variants I know the first stem refers to an animal skin, usually cured, rather than a human skin, so it usually translates as ‘leather’. Its root has to do with flexibility, and the word ( kuetlaxochitl ; accent on the o, and x is an ‘sh’ sound) might be glossed ‘floppy flower’ rather than ‘skin flower’. I don’t know of its being used as a dye, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t.
*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .
With Christmas nearly here, we can bring back this old thread on “poinsettia.” Today I was reading Ben Zimmer’s on the pronunciation issues raised by the word and I noted that the first comment after Zimmer’s post called attention to the frequency of “pointsettia,” speculating that it must be “either a case of epenthesis [letter/sound insertion in the middle of a word], or the influence of actual ‘point’ compounds, or both.”
In our discussion above, we failed to note the simpler “pointsettia” version. I see also that David B anticipated Zimmer’s explanation of the parallels between “etta” in women’s names and the “poyn-set-uh” pronunciation.
Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.