Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Mon Jun 18 14:44:24 UTC 2001

Hardly. A buttercup is a crowfoot, and, botanically, daffodils and
jonquils are both narcissuses (or, for the high-falutin' narcissi,
not -ae).

But I know lots of green-thumbers who will regularly refer to some
plants as narcissuses and others (in contrast) as daffodils. Folk
realities are, of course, not any less "real" than scientific ones.
If color, or size, or plumage, sets off one variety from another,
what should we do in lexicographical practice? The dictionaries I
looked at (very briefly, and I sure some lexicographers will
immmediately tell me I have overlooked their own exemplary practice)
have not done a very good job in carefully seprating folk from
scientific nomenclature ( I notice this more for game fish than
anything else), and most ("dialect" dictionaries aside of course)
seem to give preference to the "scientifically correct" label. The
worst outcome of this is that it feeds the popular mind's already
strongly held odd belief that words have "real" meanings (and that
those who do not hold to them are somehow less moral creatures than
those who do).


>Daffodil, jonquil, buttercup...they're all narcissi
>(or is it narcissae?)
>--- Alice Faber <faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU> wrote:
>>  Kim & Rima McKinzey said:
>>  >>Then there's the whole daffodil/buttercup
>>  controversy...
>>  >
>>  >There is?  To me, daffodils are those tall,
>>  multibloom stalky flowers
>>  >and buttercups are short, little, clovery yellow
>>  ground cover sorts
>>  >of flowers.
>>  Agreed. All they share is the color (and then if you
>>  hold a buttercup up
>>  against a daffodil, there is a subtle difference in
>>  shading).
>>  To me, the real controversy has to do with whether
>>  the stalky flowers are
>>  daffodils or narcissus.
>>  --
>>  Alice Faber
>>  tel. (203) 865-6163
>>  Haskins Laboratories
>>  fax  (203) 865-8963
>>  270 Crown St
>>  faber at haskins.yale.edu
>>  New Haven, CT 06511
>afaber at wesleyan.edu
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Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at pilot.msu.edu
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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