The sculpture garden

Today’s Rhymes With Orange, playing nicely on a small but significant ambiguity in the noun garden:

NOAD2 gives two relevant senses of garden:

[a] a piece of ground, often near a house, used for growing flowers, fruit, or vegetables.

[b] (gardens) ornamental grounds laid out for public enjoyment and recreation: botanical gardens.

The larger sense is something like ‘a piece of ground, or grounds, serving some useful service for people’, with [a] and [b] as specializations of this larger sense: [a] for growing things, [b] for enjoyment (or recreation, though field tends to be used for this case), especially for outdoor exhibition of some collection of things.

The [b] use is by no means restricted to the plural gardens: note the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the zoological garden (aka zoo), and, yes, the sculpture garden. Stanford has, in fact, two sculpture gardens (as well as a cactus garden, for exhibition rather than merely growing the cactuses): the Rodin Sculpture Garden, with bronze castings of Rodin figures, by the Cantor Art Museum; and the New Guinea Scupture Garden, for the exhibition of carved and painted figures by native New Guinea artists, in a small wooded area across campus.

In any case, the two senses are very close, but the Rhymes cartoon plays on the difference. In the conventional, [b], sense of sculpture garden, it’s a place for exhibition and for enjoyment of the exhibited items; but it could also have (somewhat fantastically) the [a] sense, in which sculptures (though inorganic objects) grow like flowers, fruits, or vegetables, indeed in which people grow sculptures like plants. So they can be harvested when young, as small domestic objets d’art, or harvested in maturity, as pieces of public art.

As a bonus, note that the sculpture in question is Rodin’s The Thinker. And recall that Hilary Price, the cartoonist, is a Stanford graduate.

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