When I think of flowers at home in vases, the first ones that come to mind are long peach gladioli. These beautiful flowers -which come in many more colors and share a name origin with Roman gladiators – are named after the Latin word “gladius” or little sword due to their shape. The flowers were named by Roman naturalist and author of Naturalis Historia, Gaius Plinius Secundus aka Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 AD).
The Dutch have a saying – there’s always a Dutch saying I’m coming to realize – “de dood of de gladiolen,’” meaning “death or the gladiolus,” which basically means “all or nothing” – where the “all” is the gladiolus. The saying alludes to the Roman custom of throwing gladioli at victorious gladiators in the amphitheaters. It’s interesting that they were throwing gladiolus at the gladiators because I have also read that these flowers (from Asia and Africa) were not grown in Europe until the 18th Century – I can’t imagine how the Roman public had that many imported – and expensive- gladiolus to throw into the amphitheater.
They are my mom’s favorite flowers and since Mother’s Day was last weekend, I decided to write about them. The flowers symbolize honor, remembrance, strength of character, never giving up, and infatuation. The Victorians used these flowers to express their feelings when they themselves could not speak of them – again that’s a lot of imported flowers especially considering how shy the Victorians were about expressing any kind of feeling. Interestingly, “gladiolus” was the 1925 Spelling Bee word that the champion spelled correctly to win the tournament.
This was such a popular post when I did it last year that I thought I should share it again.
I saw the word “Shibboleth”for the first time earlier this week. When I logged out of an account, it said something along the lines of a Shibboleth logout. Which of course, got me wondering – what was that? It seemed so incongruous.
The word – which clearly sounds like a Hebrew word – has a very interesting story. In Hebrew the word Shibboleth actually means ear of grain. Some ancient Semitic tribes pronounced the word with a “sh” sound, while others pronounced it with an “s” sound, and that – believe it or not – is the beginning of the story of how it eventually came to be part of current network security.
When two Semitic tribes went to war during biblical times, the victors, who pronounced the “sh” sound, identified the enemy by making everyone say the word shibboleth – and those that said it with an “s” sound were found to be the enemy and – well – slaughtered.
And from there the word came to mean linguistic password – a way of speaking that is used to identify a group of people. It can also be customs, mannerisms, and ways of doing something. One example would be identifying an American from a Britisher by the way they use a fork and knife; a Britisher does not switch the fork from the left to the right hand – whereas an American switches the fork to the right hand after cutting their food. Shibboleth became a way of including and excluding people and identifying them – and I can imagine it must have also been quite useful during modern warfare too, including World War I & II.
Shibboleth has been used a lot when two neighboring countries are at war – or during a civil war – when it is difficult to distinguish between people because there are more similarities than dissimilarities. In the Lebanese Civil war of 1975, Lebanese soldiers checked to see is someone was Lebanese or Palestinian by making them say the word for tomato in Arabic. Lebanese say “banadoura,” while Palestinians say “bandoura.” With this tomayto-tomato they were able to identify the Palestinians. There are many similar wartime stories linked with this word.
It is this very ability to identify who belongs and who does not that enabled the word to lend itself to be used in reference to secure identification when a user logs into or out of a network system run by institutions such as public service organizations or universities. And that is what I recently saw when I logged out of a network.
Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth exhibition at the Tate Modern in London shows cracks in the floor – symbolizing the damage cultural exclusion can cause.
Your soul is a select landscape
Where charming masqueraders and
Playing the lute and dancing and almost
Sad beneath their fantastic disguises.
All sing in a minor key
Of victorious love and the opportune life,
They do not seem to believe in their happiness
And their song mingles with the moonlight,
With the still moonlight, sad and beautiful,
That sets the birds dreaming in the trees
And the fountains sobbing in ecstasy,
The tall slender fountains among marble statues.
Paul Verlaine, 1869
(Top image: Arkhip Kuindzhi Ivanovich, Moonlit Night on the Dneiper, 1882)(Images Courtesy: The State Tretyakov Gallery, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Ohio)
Ruth Bader Ginsberg (March 15, 1933 – September 18, 2020). The world lost a trailblazer and a true champion this week.
I pray that I may be all that (my mother) would have been had she lived in an age when women could aspire and achieve, and daughters are cherished as much as sons.
Fight for the things you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.
I would advise more listening, less talking.
I am optimistic in the long run. A great man once said the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle, it’s the pendulum, and when the pendulum swings too far in one direction, it will go back.
It helps sometimes to be a little deaf. When a thoughtless and unkind word is spoken best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.
You should speak in your own voice.
Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.
The Wind of Change is blowing through this continent, and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact.We must all accept is as fact and our national policies must take account of it.
Harold Macmillan, The Wind of Change , 1960, South Africa
No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as
well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine
owne were; any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
I really enjoyed writing about the origins of flower names in a previous blog, “A Rose by any Other Name“, and since there are so many flowers with such pretty names I thought I would do one more.
Violets – We’ve all heard the Valentine rhyme with roses and violets, but violets aren’t really blue – they are violet!! Interestingly, the color came after the flower in this case – the flower is named after the Latin viola or a little violin. The valentine poem we are all so familiar was first found in Gammer Gurton’s Garland which was a 1784 collection of nursey rhymes:
The rose is red, the violet's blue
The honey's sweet, and so are you
Camellia – When Carl Linnaeus standardized plant names in 1753, he named these flowers after Father Georg Joseph Kamel (1161–1706), a Jesuit missionary and naturalist. Father Kamel was a missionary to the Philippines where he became a plant specialist of the Philippine islands. Camellias are native to Japan and China, where they are known to exist since 2737 BCE. The flower is called Tsubaki in Japanese and symbolizes the divine.
Peony – this beautiful flower symbolizing romance and prosperity is named after Paeon who in Greek mythology was the physician to the Greek Gods. Paeon was a student of Asclepius, the God of medicine and healing. Asclepius was jealous of Paeon and threatened to kill him. Zeus turned Paeon into a flower to save him from Asclepius – and that’s how this flower got its name. Peonies are the national flower of China and are known as the king of flowers in China.
Amaryllis – this flowers is named after a shepherdess in Latin poet Virgil’s work called the Eclogues which are a collection of 10 unconnected pastoral poems that he composed between 42 and 37 BCE. Amaryllis was in love with Alteo, and to get his attention she pierced her heart daily with a golden arrow for a month. The blood that dropped from her heart was red like the flower which came to be known as Amaryllis. Perhaps also because of the red color, the Amaryllis plays a starring role at Christmas time.
Methinks I see it now, that one solitary, adventurous vessel, the ‘Mayflower’ of a forlorn hope, freighted with the prospects of a future State, and bound across the unknown sea. I behold it pursuing, with a thousand misgivings, the uncertain, the tedious voyage. Suns rise and set, and weeks and months pass, and winter surprises them on the deep, but brings them not the sight of the wished-for shore. I see them now scantily supplied with provisions, crowded almost to suffocation in their ill-stored prison, delayed by calms, pursuing a circuitous route; and now driven in fury before the raging tempest, on the high and giddy waves. The awful voice of the storm howls through the rigging. The laboring masts seem straining from their base; the dismal sound of the pumps is heard; the ship leaps, as it were, madly from billow to billow; the ocean breaks, and settles with engulfing floods over the floating deck, and beats with deadening weight against the staggered vessel. I see them, escaped from these perils, pursuing their all but desperate undertaking, and landed at last, after five months’ passage, on the ice-clad rocks of Plymouth,—weak and weary from the voyage, poorly armed, scantily provisioned, depending on the charity of their shipmaster for a draft of beer on board, drinking nothing but water on shore, without shelter, without means, surrounded by hostile tribes.
I am always intrigued by names and how they originate and get associated with things. I thought I’ll research a few of my favorite flowers and see how they got the name they did.
Tulip – this beautiful flower originated in Persia and Turkey and gets its name from the Turkish word for turbans. Men wore tulips on their turbans in this region, and Europeans thought the word tulip was for the name of the flower, and not the word for turban and started calling the beautiful flower tulip. It’s interesting because I also think the name looks like a turban – and some sources say that the name originated from the Turkish word for turban. Either way – it’s a perfect name for this much-loved flower.
Gardenia – this gorgeous white fragrant flower is named after physician and botanist Alexander Garden. It was named that not by Garden himself but Carl Linnaeus a Swedish botanist who formalized binomial nomenclature. Garden lived in Charleston, SC and had sent a magnolia to Linnaeus who felt the need to then name a flower after Garden and picked the cape jasmine and called it gardenia!!
Iris – the name of this flower is from the Greek word – eiris – which is the name of the Greek Goddess of the rainbow. The flower is called that because it comes in all colors of the rainbow. It is also the flower that announces the arrival of spring by popping out of the ground sometimes through the snow.
Dahlia – these flowers symbolize summer – and are also very important for Mexico which is where they originated. They were some of the earlier flowers taken to Europe from the Americas and did well in the German and Swedish summers – and were named dahlia after a Swedish botanist Andres Dahl. The Germans wanted to name the flower Georgina after German botanist Johann Gottlieb Georgi – and called it Georgina through the 19th century until they finally gave in to the Swedes.
Marigold – this deep yellow flower which grows profusely all year long seems to be revered in almost all religions. Its name derives from Mary’s Gold – so named after Mary, the mother of Jesus. Marigolds were taken to Europe from Mexico and Guatemala in the 16th century – in Spain they were placed at the altar of Mary which gave them their name. Marigolds are also used in all Hindu religious ceremonies.
Carnations – the name sounds like and is derived from the word coronation – these flowers were used in ancient Greek crowns from which they get their name. Today these flowers are used for solemn occasions.
Lily – lilies get their name from the Greek word leiron which was what they called the while lily. Lilies are the oldest cultivated flowers in the world and were grown by the Cretes as early as 1580 BCE.
Robinson Of Leyden
Oliver Wendell Holmes
HE sleeps not here; in hope and prayer
His wandering flock had gone before,
But he, the shepherd, might not share
Their sorrows on the wintry shore.
Before the Speedwell's anchor swung,
Ere yet the Mayflower's sail was spread,
While round his feet the Pilgrims clung,
The pastor spake, and thus he said:--
'Men, brethren, sisters, children dear!
God calls you hence from over sea;
Ye may not build by Haerlem Meer,
Nor yet along the Zuyder-Zee.
'Ye go to bear the saving word
To tribes unnamed and shores untrod;
Heed well the lessons ye have heard
From those old teachers taught of God.
'Yet think not unto them was lent
All light for all the coming days,
And Heaven's eternal wisdom spent
In making straight the ancient ways;
'The living fountain overflows
For every flock, for every lamb,
Nor heeds, though angry creeds oppose
With Luther's dike or Calvin's dam.'
He spake; with lingering, long embrace,
With tears of love and partings fond,
They floated down the creeping Maas,
Along the isle of Ysselmond.
They passed the frowning towers of Briel,
The 'Hook of Holland's' shelf of sand,
And grated soon with lifting keel
The sullen shores of Fatherland.
No home for these!--too well they knew
The mitred king behind the throne;--
The sails were set, the pennons flew,
And westward ho! for worlds unknown.
And these were they who gave us birth,
The Pilgrims of the sunset wave,
Who won for us this virgin earth,
And freedom with the soil they gave.
The pastor slumbers by the Rhine,--
In alien earth the exiles lie,--
Their nameless graves our holiest shrine,
His words our noblest battle-cry!
Still cry them, and the world shall hear,
Ye dwellers by the storm-swept sea!
Ye _have_ not built by Haerlem Meer,
Nor on the land-locked Zuyder-Zee!
On July 23, 1620, the English Pilgrms who had been living in the Netherlands, sailed on the Speedwell. They were heading towards Sothhampton where they would meet up with the Mayflower, and togther the two ships would sail for the New World.
While most of us may relate to them as the twin eels in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, these two very interesting words originate from marine debris and are related to the items that were once on a ship but are now in the ocean.
Flotsam is debris or rubbish that is found floating around in the ocean that got there because of a ship accident or wreck. It was never deliberately thrown into the ocean from the ship. The word flotsam comes from the French word floter which simply means to float. The rule of finder’s keepers does not apply to flotsam found by a passerby – the debris still belongs to the owners of the ship that met with the unfortunate accident that cause the flotsam.
Jetsam on the other hand is debris that was deliberately thrown from the ship into the ocean – either to lighten the ship before an accident or for some other reason. The important distinction is that it was deliberately thrown. The word is derived from the word jettison which means to throw something from a plane or a ship. Since they chose to throw the jetsam, the rule of finders keepers does apply in this case – and a passerby that comes across the jetsam can keep it.
The two words are most often used together and have metaphorically come to mean odds and ends, or miscellaneous items – as in –“the war refugees carried the flotsam and jetsam of their life on their backs as they walked across the continent searching for a safe haven.”
(Images courtesy, NGA DC, Portland Museum of Art, National Museuem of Norway, & Tate Gallery UK).