Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ Category


January 28, 2016

Two things yesterday: it was Mozart’s birthday, and it was a bright sunny day, cool but not cold, so after a long time away, Juan and I had an al fresco breakfast at Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden, which was packed with things in bloom (winter-blooming flowers and also spring-blooming flowers, since for plants spring starts locally in January) or simply flourishing (like many cool-weather food plants).


Bruce Bruce Bruce

January 27, 2016

Or: Australia Australia Australia!

From Daily Jocks on the 25th, this example of their own AUS line (with my caption appended):


A triple threat: proudly
Australian, proudly
Working class, proudly
Queer – “I like to get
Down under with
Me mates”

The company’s ad copy:

Say G’day to our newest underwear collection, designed downunder (for your downunder). Featuring a soft waistband with bold AUS logo and printed Australian flag, the cotton/spandex blend will keep you feeling comfortable.

To come: more on the underwear and the body of the model in #1. Then to Monty Python’s “Bruces” sketch, notes on Bruce as a particularly Australian name (and, in the U.S., as a particularly gay name), with a digression on the wattle, and then to Australian comedian and actor Barry Humphries, Dame Edna Everage, and Aussie bloke Barry McKenzie.



December 29, 2015

Yesterday the lunch special at Reposado in Palo Alto was green shrimp posole, a hominy stew with shrimp as its central feature (and with other shellfish in the stew) and with green sauce (salsa verde, made with tomatillos). Fabulous.

So tomatillo was today’s morning name, but for an entirely explicable reason.

I’m going to focus on tomatillos here, but first some words on posole.


Name your florist

December 27, 2015

Rerun of a Modern Family show in which Cam and Mitchell are planning their wedding and they can’t decide on which florist to hire, but they want one with a clever name — how gay is that? — and entertain Floral and Hardy and Florist Gump. Groan: Laurel and Hardy, Forrest Gump.


Morning name: camellia

December 26, 2015

A few days ago, this name of a very pretty bush that is widely grown around here in California. The next day I realized that I pass a sasanqua (Camellia sasanqua), much like the one pictured below, twice a day at lunchtime, but only reflected on this consciously when talking with a friend who was walking with me.


These are single-flowering. There are double-flowered varieties (mostly in Camellia japonica), and there’s also tea bush or tree (Camellia sinensis), whose leaves supply us with the tea we drink.


sweet olive

December 9, 2015

Noticed in front of a neighbor’s condo on Ramona St. in Palo Alto, a neatly trimmed hedge (about 30 inches high) of a plant that had just come into bloom. Looking a lot like this:

The shrub still had a label on it, saying it was sweet olive. Unlike Russian-olive (posted about here), which is neither Russian nor an olive, sweet olive is in fact in the olive family, the Oleaceae.


Morning names: Norfolk Island Pine, ruach

December 5, 2015

Thursday, the Norfolk Island pine, which is not a pine and has nothing to do with the English county  or the city in Virginia; then as I went to lunch, I discovered why that particular name might have bubbled up in my mind. Yesterday, the Hebrew term ruach, and I have no clue about where that might have come from.


Morning name: penumbra

November 30, 2015

Today’s name that just popped into my head, for no reason I could think of. From NOAD2:

penumbra  the partially shaded outer region of the shadow cast by an opaque object. [also figurative uses] ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: modern Latin, from Latin paene ‘almost’ + umbra ‘shadow’ [OED3 (Sept. 2005): Johannes Kepler Ad Vitellionem Paralipomena (1604)]

I think it’s wonderful that this was devised by Kepler as a technical term in astronomy. As a technical term in English it comes paired with umbra:

the fully shaded inner region of a shadow cast by an opaque object, especially the area on the earth or moon experiencing the total phase of an eclipse. (NOAD2)

A diagram illustrating both terms, without the complexities of eclipses:


Two parts to the word penumbra, pen(e)- and umbra, each putting the word into relationships with a cluster of other words in English.



November 23, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the product ExtenZe,

a herbal nutritional supplement claiming to promote “natural male enhancement”, a euphemism for penis enlargement. Additionally, television commercials and advertisements claim an “improved” or “arousing” sexual experience [longer, stronger, harder erections]. (from Wikipedia)

Now another product has come along and is advertising heavily on cable tv, especially at night. Unlike ExtenZe, which contains small anounts of virtually every substance believed (in some tradition or another) to be of some efficacy in enlarging the penis or improving sexual performance, Nugenix has a small ingredients list, which includes one herb, fenugreek seed, that is not in ExtenZe.


The water frog, the ground squirrel, and the little thrush

November 11, 2015

From Xopher Walker, back in the spring, a Colonial Williamsburg Foundation greeting card with a reproduction of a charming 1754 etching by Mark Catesby showing a “water frog” (billed as Rana aquatica) together with a purple pitcher plant:




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