''The Language of Flowers"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Mon Jan 10 12:44:02 UTC 2005

I think Jonathon Green's post is cited here. It's not mine, despite the attribution.


RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: RonButters at AOL.COM
Subject: =?ISO-8859-1?Q?Re:=20=A0=20=A0=20=A0=20Re:=20''The=20Language=20?
= =?ISO-8859-1?Q?of=20Flowers"?=

In a message dated 1/9/05 1:31:33 PM, wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM writes:

> I would also suggest that drexel = Yiddish 'dreck' =
> excrement.
> As for the 'language of flowers', she, like Tom Dalzell, saw it as a
> reference backwards to Victoriana, rather than presaging the
> handkerchief codes of the 1970s. That said, it may be that both Tom and
> Ron Butters are right; that the 'language of flowers' was that which was
> already in place in other contexts, here adopted/adapted by gay men for
> their own signaling requirements.

Jewish men are mentioned several times in the novel, but always very much as
the OTHER. There are no other hints of Yiddish in the book that I can see.
But, given the nature of the bawdy puns in the book, I certain wouldn't rule out
DREXEL < DRECK = 'excrement' -- except that the author does not generally take
such pains to disguise her puns -- I would have expected DREQUE-BEACH rather
than DREXEL-BEACH if that was what she meant.

> I don't know what you mean by "Victoriana." Can you explain that more
> fully? I didn't mean to suggest that I thought the "language of flowers" "was
> already in place in other contexts"--on the contrary, it seems in the context of
> the book to refer indeed to something that gay men made up. I also did not
> mean to imply any direct historical connection with the handkerchief semiotic,
> which was more a convenience than a secret code.
I certainly agree that the language of the book appears to be much more 1025
or 1930 than 1910, despite its setting.

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