Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Language of Flowers

One of the (few) useful things about having a degree in Linguistics is that one can always be entertained by the elements and aspects of language that surround us every day and allow us to communicate with each other. We naturally think of traditional spoken and written languages like English, Chinese, and German, artificial ones like Esperanto, and invented ones like Tolkien's Quenya (Elvish) and Star Trek's Klingon. But there are many other forms of linguistic communication as well, including sign languages, pictograms, the unintelligible deep bass grunts and shouts of hip-hop and rap ... and the language of flowers.

The old florist's ad tells you to "say it with flowers," and you can. We usually think of a gift of flowers as a signal of love, appreciation, congratulation, or sorrow, but there is in fact a very rich and complex language of flowers that allows you to send all sorts of messages to your audience, depending on the types of flowers you include in your bouquet.

I first heard of the language of flowers when it appeared as a significant plot element in the horror novel Ghoul, by Michael Slade, when the titular character used bouquets of flowers to send messages taunting the police. A little research yielded a great deal of information about the langage of flowers, which included this interesting website that summarizes the messages which can be sent by particular blossoms. For instance, we might send these bouquets to certain recipients:

Congress: Colchicum ("my best days are past"), Clotbur ("rudeness"), Hortensia ("heartlessness"), Columbine ("folly"), and Buttercup ("childishness");

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad: Belvedere ("I declare war against you");

China (to any other country with territorial claims in the South China Sea): Pasqueflower ("you have no claims");

Any District Attorney: Coltsfoot ("justice will be done");

The Tea Party: Barberry ("sourness of temper");

The Octomom: Fig Tree ("prolific");

The NRA: Tuberose ("dangerous pleasures"); and,

Donald Trump: Kingcup ("desire for riches").

What bouquets would you send? Check out the language of flowers here and leave a comment. Inquiring minds want to know.

Have a good day. I send you a bouquet of deep pink roses.

More thoughts on Thursday.



Big Sky Heidi said...

I'll send Harry Reid a boquet of stinkweed and lobelia.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Bil Clinton -- A bouquet of burdock.

Joe Biden -- A single belladonna and a rose.

My boyfriend -- Oak leaf geranium and foget-me-nots.

Mike said...

Now I'm wondering about flowers I've given or received in the past.

Amanda said...

I don't think I've sent flowers to anybody before....

I was thinking of planting some Marigolds but now that I see they mean 'despair', I'm definitely not going for them.