11/07/2007

"It's easy to misspell fuchsia, but did you know that it is also commonly mispronounced? Many know this cloud forest exotic as FYOO-shah, but the preferred pronounciation is actually FOOK-see-ah, as it is named after the 16th century German botanist, Leonard Fuchs. The fuchsia is a favorite in Bay Area gardens, and SFBG Plant Sales are a good source for the mite-resistant varieties that thrive here. Fuchsia boliviana can be found in the Meso-American Cloud Forest, the South America Garden and in this month's In Bloom feature, complete with photos, plant profile and exact locations."

That's from the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society's monthly newsletter. I wondered if that was the correct pronunciation for fuchsia, which is often misspelled, or misspelt if you prefer, even on garden blogs (but not this one).

My former boss's boss trained under a man named Fuchs, pronounced Fooks, so naturally I wondered about fuchsia.

It doesn't really matter you pronounce a botanical name, because people from different places speak differently and we're all content with that. I assure you noone at the San Francisco Botanical Garden says FOOK-see-ah unless s/he's joking.

I can only think of one genus name you really want to pronounce a particular way. Do you know which one I'm talking about? It starts with a C.

And it's not Ceanothus. Which is mostly pronounced SEE-a-NO-thus. I want to call it see-ANN-ah-this. That would be my preference.

I had one other thing to say, but someone just called and I forgot what it was. I hate it when that happens.

Now I remember. I was going to say when a genus or species is named after a person, there's a stronger argument for favoring a specific pronunciation. Heuchera is another example. The man's name was Heucher, and you say it HOY-ker. So it would be HOY-ker-a, not HYOO-cher-a or HYOO-ker-a. I've pointed that out many times. But noone cares. It's something I do for me. Pedantry can be fun.

11 comments:

LostRoses said...

You must be talking about KLEM-a-tus, which until a couple years ago most of us pronounced klem-AT-is. Well, I still do. People look at me funny when I put the accent on the right syl-ABB-le.

I'm going to try saying FOOK-see-ah among my garden friends and watch how they look at me.

Gardener of La Mancha said...

Cotoneaster?

JvA said...

I used to call it "see-ANN-ah-this"! See-ann, like cyan.

mmw said...

As you know, pedantry is my specialty, so I'll have to add that Fuchs had no umlaut (poor man), and therefore Fuchsia is properly pronounced FUCK-see-yah.

But this is irrelevant, considering the extent to which botanists et al. butcher pronunciation of all Latin. Just one example to BLOW YOUR MIND: the suffix they've irrationally attached to all families, "-aceae", is pronounced ay-kee-aye in classical Latin. I dare you to walk into a nursery -- or a biology dept. -- and start saying it right.

mmw said...

Oh, and lostroses, don't feel bad: my mom says KLEM-an-tis. Who knows where the "n" came from?

chuck b. said...

Okay, fabulous--from now on I'll only be planting Clemantises and Fucksias in my garden.

Fin De Fichier said...

I've read somewhere Kniphofia is supposed to be pronounced kneep-OFF-ia, after Herr Kniphof, instead of KNI-pho-fia. But my bluestocking likes to coyly refer to them as NYMPHO-fias. Yeah, HER mind is always in the gutter.

lisa said...

Heh...I always said FEW-SHA, and my mom says clem-I-tus...but then she calls surprise lilies "naked ladies", so what'cha gonna do?

Annie in Austin said...

Nuns were the teachers when I had Latin and way back then we learned to pronounce it the same way it was spoken in Church. Latin spoken that way sounds closer to Italian and I always liked it better than the Classical pronunciations. No 'Veni vidi vici' pronounced as 'Wen-nie, wid-die, wick-ie' for me.

That LostRoses is too smart, Chuck! I thought you were going to reveal some secret rule about the name of the Blue Pea Vine.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

LostRoses said...

The first time I heard someone say 'Wen-nie, wid-die, wick-ie' I almost dropped my rosary beads. Were the nuns wrong? I think not! Anyway, who has ever heard Latin spoken by a native Latin speaker? No one.

mmw said...

It is true that "Church Latin" sounds much more pleasant than Classical Latin, and it's just as legitimate a system. But botanical pronunciation bears as little resemblance to "Church Latin" as to Classical, as "-aceae" demonstrates.