« PreviousContinue »
JAMES BRITTEN, F.L.S.
TRÜBNER & CO., LUDGATE HILL.
VERY opposite opinions have at times been expressed as to the value of the English names by which our wild, and many of our cultivated, plants are known. A writer in Science Gossip' of November 1868, made the following remarks :“ Having plucked a little blue flower in a garden in Wiltshire,
I was incautious enough to ask the proprietor, an owner of many water-meadows, to tell me the name of this pretty and fragrant leguminous plant. With a smile of compassion at the ignorance of his London guest, my friend informed me that it was only a bit of old sow.' I thanked him, but felt decidedly humiliated -and not much wiser than before. Why should this plant be called “old sow'? and what knowledge of its nature and properties is communicated by such a name ? and, above all, why should this agrarian philosopher look upon me with contempt because I am ignorant of what probably constitutes his whole
knowledge of it—its vulgar name?" After drawing a comparison between what he calls vulgar English names and the nomenclature of science, the writer goes on to say :“An examination of the common or vulgar terms applied to
plants and animals will at once introduce us to a complete language of meaningless nonsense, almost impossible to retain, and certainly worse than useless when remembered, —a vast vocabularly of names, many of which signify that which is false, and most of which mean nothing at all.”
Turning from this rather strong denunciation of provincial names it is rather a relief to read the opinion of another writer in the