Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ Category

The Haddockian argot, and licorice

June 18, 2015

A recent Language Log posting by Mark Liberman (“Vigilance – Cleanliness”) reproduced a cartoon of Captain Haddock, Hergé’s character in Tintin, exclaiming nonsensically:


That’s ‘thunder of/from Brest’ (the city in Brittany) and it’s not supposed to mean anything beyond exhibiting strong emotion in the Haddockian argot.



June 14, 2015

Noted locally in planters on the street: shrubby russian-olives, with handsome gray-green leaves:


The Russian-olive is to some degree Russian in origin, but it’s not an olive, so the composite Russian-olive is non-subsective — a resembloid composite, in fact.


The Counts Perovski

June 3, 2015

In the May 30th Economist, in a “Technology Quarterly” section, an article on work on transparent solar cells, including proposals to use

a family of crystalline materials called perovskites, which could allow semi-transparent solar cells to be made relatively cheaply in large rolls.

Ah, the minerals called perovskites, which reminded me of the garden plant called perovskia, which I grew in my Ohio garden. Turns out there are two different (and apparent unrelated) Russian counts named Perovski here, who lived and flourished at almost the exactly same time.



June 3, 2015

Following up on my “Cilantro, same-sex marriage, and Yoda” posting, Sim Aberson wrote to ask about culantro (with a U, not an I), another scented herb, one that grows in the part of the world where Sim lives. Two things I don’t know about culantro: what the etymology of the name is, and whether people who are sensitive to cilantro have a similar reaction to culantro.



June 1, 2015

A bit of edible greenery, in a posting I’ll soon use for another purpose: coriander / cilantro,


Rubber trees, rubber plants

May 29, 2015

In the NYT on the 27th, a piece “China’s High Hopes for Growing Those Rubber Tree Plants” by Becky Davis:

[in the face of a huge drop in the price of rubber,] environmental officials just outside Jinghong, [southwest Yunnan Province’s] major city, have been testing a plantation model that they hope will become the blueprint for a more sustainable and economically stable rubber industry.

On approximately 165 acres of land, workers have interspersed the rubber trees with cacao, coffee and macadamia trees, as well as high-value timber species. The mix, promoted as “environmentally friendly rubber,” is intended to decrease soil erosion, improve water quality and increase biodiversity, among other benefits.

So here we have rubber trees. But what about the houseplants commonly called rubber plants? Those, believe it or not, are a species of fig.


California’s iconic food

May 23, 2015

In the NYT yesterday, a feature story on agriculture’s contribution to the California drought. The teaser on the front page:

How We Drain California
Each week, the average American consumes more than 300 gallons of California water by eating food that was produced there. To fundamentally alter how much water the drought-ravaged state uses, everyone may have to give something up. A guide to thirsty foods, like the avocado.

Illustration: a slim sliver of avocado, with the caption:

The average American eats a sliver of California avocado each week. It takes 4.1 gallons of water to produce.

Alas, the avocado is California’s iconic food. Avocados would be a considerable sacrifice for Californians, and everybody, Californian or otherwise, would have to give up guacamole, even on Super Bowl Sunday.


Fig time

May 20, 2015

A couple days ago I caught a snippet of a discussion on KQED-FM about overwintering fig plants. Why people were discussing the topic as we near the beginning of summer I don’t know, but there it was. I’m not caring for any fig plants here in Palo Alto, but back when I lived in Columbus OH most of the year I had two: a Ficus benjamina, a very common house plant in temperate climates; and a Ficus carica, the plant the people on the radio were talking about (an ornamental and the source of the figs we eat), which I grew in Columbus as a potted plant, to serve as a reminder of California.

Now some figgy reflections, starting with some Ficus plants and then wandering on to other fig-related matters: the fig leaf of modesty, figgy pudding, Fig Newtons, and the negative polarity item care/give a fig.


Good and evil: Star Jasmine

May 4, 2015

We’re moving into summer vegetation here, including the blossoming of star jasmine everywhere: lovely flowers, intoxicatingly sweet fragrance:



April 7, 2015

Posting about Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music recently brought me to “Edelweiss” (the song) and Edelweiss (the plant).



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