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  • Pronunciation

Hocus pocus Rachel recently posted problems with pronunciation of plants which led me to procure a guide to Latin names and guises.

Now I've been growing my red hot pokers for years as seen in the photo attached (Kniphophia) Knife-Ofia, only to be told on the Garden TV show to Niff-offia. Lovely I thought but never mind there's always my Geums, sorry was that Jee ums.

Then the old Latin lessons came in from school to haunt us with the posh pronunciation of Clematis from the verb (Clem) to climb:

Clemo I climb Clem-mow
Clemas Thou climb Clem-ass
Clemat He climbs Clem- at
Clemamus We climb Clem-ahmus
Clematis You climb Clem-ahtis
Clemant They climb Clem-ant

Therefore your Clem attis or Clem Haytis is wrong, it is Clem-ah-tis or almost regal like Clem-ar-tis sounds more correct.

Alas I remember when I first bought the nursery back in 1984 and the vendor left a lot of old stock that we
thought wasn't worth purchasing, so I wandered over and said to him - "Not really interested in all those
'Cotton Easters' to which I was abruptly corrected as ' Co-tony-asters' are a very valuable landscape shrub particularly for wildlife endearment. Knew what endearment meant, knew nothing about wildlife (thought that was me on my motorbike). Thank goodness for education and experience.

What's in a name? Or is it all HOKE-US - POKE-US

Comments (12)

  1. Grower

    Jeremy Wright

    Hi Jim - I didn't know that about Clematis. All I remember from learning Latin was declining Love (Amo, Amas...) and waging war (Bellum). Not very useful, though most of life lies somewhere between the two!

    I'm not sure it matters at all how you pronounce botanical names. The Romans are not here to correct us and I expect we all pronounce them somewhat differently. Also Latin pronunciation in the Roman Empire apparently varied so much from region to region that people often struggled to understand each other.

    However, using proper botanical names today is key, as common names are such a muddle.

    So here's one from me. Kalanchoe: is it kuh-LAN-choe, kuh-LAN-ko-ee or kal-en-KOH-ee. Take your pick. But don't ask for a Good Luck Plant (the common name), you might get a Four Leaf Clover!

  2. Grower

    Winifred Field

    LOVED YOUR COMMENTS, a rose by any other name!

  3. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Ha ha! I would say Nigh-FOF-fia, myself!

    I remember getting very cross at hearing some dreadful presenter on a gardening show going on about HEE-mer-ockle-ees. Took me ages to work out that she meant Heemer-O'Callis.

  4. Grower

    Jim Edwards

    Thank you for mentioning roses Winifred, given me a chance to show off our
    fragrant: David Austin - Gentle Hermione

    • Pronunciation
  5. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    And that would be "Her-MY-oh-knee".

    Not HER-mee-oh-knee....

  6. Grower

    Winifred Field

    Told you, if it were named "Onion" would you not still grow it!

  7. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Well, I still grow Scabious, despite the horrible scabby name!

  8. Grower

    Jim Edwards

    I prefer ' Her-on-me-knee ' but not smelling of onions

  9. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    "Boom! Boom!"

    (I shouldn't encourage you, Jim, that was a terrible joke!)

  10. Grower

    Jim Edwards

    Best I can do on a cold blustery November day, just off out to plant my Alliums

  11. Grower

    Good Earth Gardens

    Nip-off-fee-ah for me, as in 'nip-off for a cuppa' ;-)

  12. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    You've got me thinking about it now... no, I'm still going with Nigh-Foffy-er. But the cuppa is a good idea!

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