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Unsere Pflanzen Children's Wild Flowers

Nature volume 71, page 510 (30 March 1905) | Download Citation

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Abstract

THE derivation of many botanical names being very uncertain, it is probable that the subject appeals more to the philologist than the botanist. Who shall say, for instance, whether the speedwell takes its name from a saint Veronica, or should be derived from “vera icon” or “vera unica”? Vernacular names are perhaps more easily explained, but vary greatly in different districts. Similar difficulties occur with German popular names, so that Mr. Söhns has a number of problems of an indeterminate nature to solve in his book, which deals with the nomenclature of plants and their place in mythology and folklore. Generally the author's arguments are carefully deduced and convincing, and, as might be expected, the correct derivation is not always obvious. Tausendgueldenkraut, the popular name of Erythraea centaurea, suggests a connection with “centum aurum,” but the specific name is undoubtedly given in honour of the Centaur Chiron, who was skilled in medicine, and the German name, which was at first hundert guelden Kraut, has apparently given place to Tausendgueldenkraut, where thousand is used in a hyperbolic sense, and thus the Centaur's plant has become associated with a fanciful expression. In addition to etymology, the book contains many references to popular superstitions. On account of the dissimilarity between German and English popular names it cannot be expected that the book will appeal strongly to English readers, but a third edition points to its success in Germany.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/071510a0

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