[Read at the New Zealand Institute Science Congress, Palmerston North, January, 1921 received by Editor, 22nd August, 1924; issued separately, 10th May, 1926.]
The number and diversity of the popular names of our New Zealand plants are made more evident when these popular or common names are gathered together and placed side by side. Their heterogeneous nature is no doubt largely due to the partial isolation of the various early settlements of the Islands in the midst of a new, vigorous flora, and also to the innate independence or obstinacy of thought that will often induce a man to give a new name even where one already exists.
The names of a few of the plants were well known from the works of Cook and other explorers; but there was a very great number quite unfamiliar to the settler, and to such of these as brought themselves under his notice, either through their use or the reverse, he set about giving names, or adopting or corrupting such Maori names as he could learn or would tolerate.
There are many reasons influencing the choice of a name:—
The name chosen may describe the plant as a whole or characteristic parts of it: broadleaf, whitewood, bluebell.
It may refer to its use medicinally: scurvy-grass, Maori painkiller.
It may refer to its use as food: cabbage-tree, tea-tree, Maori cabbage.
It may refer to its similarity to some other object: lacebark, lemonwood, turpentine-tree.
It may refer to its similarity in a humorous aspect: Captain Cook's ropes, vegetable boa-constrictor.
It may refer to its similarity to some other familiar plant: New Zealand oak, New Zealand ash, New Zealand teak.
It may refer to its habitat: bog-lily. mountain-ribbonwood, sandgunnera.
It may be altogether fantastic: wild-irishman, spaniard or bloody spaniard, bush-lawyer.
Curious contradictions occur at times. For instance, Pteris lremula, besides being known as the “trembling fern,” is known as the “scented fern” and the “stinking fern.” Whilst the latter names appear anomalous, both have their justification; for Field remarks, “It…may be at once distinguished by the strong aromatic odour, something like camomile, which its foliage emits when bruised. In the summer-time, surveyors cutting lines through the warm sheltered gullies in which it abounds often find the smell so strong as to be unpleasant, and I have heard it called the ‘stinking fern’ on this account, though many people rather like the scent.” (Field, Ferns of N.Z., p. 90.) Again, it is difficult to understand why the broadleaf was so called. There are plants with leaves much broader, and it is evidence of the persistence of a name, however seemingly inappropriate, that this is now the universally known name for Griselinia littoralis.
The manner in which different people are influenced by different parts of the same plant is well illustrated in the various names given to Coprosma lucida—-broadleaf, orange-leaf, shining coprosma, coffee-tree, yellow-wood
The names in the category 2 (medicinal) above were originally the chief of the names given, since the study of plants was wholly from a medicinal point of view. Innumerable names remain as evidence of this—self-heal, wart-weed, fever-few, &c.; and the evil days that have overtaken the herbal science are shown by the very few names now given because of supposed medicinal properties.
The name “cabbage-tree” was given by Captain Cook's people. The following remarks appear in the Journal of 10th October, 1774: “These cabbage-trees or palms were not thicker than a man's leg, and from ten to twenty feet high. They are of the same genus with the cocoa-nut tree; like it they have large pinnated leaves, and are the same sort as the second sort found in the northern parts of New South Wales [vide Hawksworth, Voyages, vol. 3]. The cabbage is, properly speaking, the bud of the tree; each tree producing but one cabbage, which is at the crown, where the leaves spring out, and is enclosed in the stem. The cutting off the cabbage effectually destroys the tree; so that no more than one can be had from the same stem. The cocoa-nut tree, and some others of the palm kind, produce cabbage as well as these. The vegetable is not only wholesome, but exceedingly palatable, and proved the most agreeable repast we had had for some time.” (Cook, Voyage to Pacific Ocean, 1777, vol. 2, pp. 148–49.)
The remarks that the leaves are pinnate, that each tree produces but one cabbage, and that the cutting of it destroys the tree, lead one to suspect that the tree referred to is not a Cordyline. The entry in the Journal was made at Norfolk Island, not New Zealand, but there is no indication in Cook as to what tree is referred to. Even the botanist Forster gives no help. In speaking of the vegetation of Norfolk Island he says, “The productions of New Zealand were here united to those of New Caledonia and the New Hebrides; for the cypress of the one, and the cabbage palm which we had seen in the latter, flourished here in the greatest perfection. It was chiefly on these two species, that we bestowed our attention; the former supplied the carpenter with several spare brooms, and pieces of timber; and the latter offered us a most welcome and palatable refreshment We cut down several of them, and took on board the central shoot, or heart, which in taste more resembles an almond than a cabbage.” (George Forster, A Voyage round the World, 1772–75, Lond., 1777, vol. 2, pp. 345–46.) In his Plantis esculentis Insularum Oceani Australis, 1786, he includes Cordyline (as Dracaena) and Rhopalostylis (as Areca), and says of Areca sapida (p. 66), “Reperitur spontanea in nova Zeelandia usque ad aestuarium Charlottae reginae, et frequens in Norfolciae insula deserta. Huius praecipue Cor sive Caput in deliciis est apud nautas Europaeos, et cum oleo et aceto parari solet.” There is a more definite clue in Banks (Journal of the Right Hon. Sir Joseph Banks…during Captain Cook's First Voyage…1768–71, Lond., 1896, p. 227), where he writes of New Zealand plants, “We also once or twice met with a herb like that which the country people in England call ‘lamb's-quarters’ or ‘fat-hen,’ which we boiled instead of greens; and once only a cabbage-tree, the cabbage of which made us one delicious meal…” A footnote identifies the former as Atriplex patula Linn., identical with the English fat-hen, and the latter as Areca sapida Soland., of which Hooker gives the range (Handbook of the
New Zealand Flora, 1867, p. 288)—“Northern and Middle Islands; as far south as Queen Charlotte's Sound, Banks and Solander, &c. Very closely related to the Norfolk Island A. Baueri, which is a larger plant. Young inflorescence eaten.” He says nothing of the eating of the young shoots of the Cordyline.
It would appear, then, that primarily the term “cabbage-tree” or “cabbage-palm” was applied to Areca Baueri, but has become transferred exclusively to Cordyline. In one place there is the remark, “We also found one cabbage-tree which we cut down for the cabbages” Cook's First Voyage, 1768–71, in Hawksworth, vol. 2, p. 322). This entry is on 29th October, 1769, when Cook was at Tolaga Bay, and seems to refer to Cordyline; in Cook's own Journal, however, the last word of the quotation is “cabbage,” not “cabbages.”
Both Cordyline and Rhopalostylis (Areca) were found by Cook in Norfolk Island; if the hearts of both were not eaten as cabbage there, they apparently were in New Zealand; and it was possibly the much more common occurrence of Cordyline in these islands that caused the name “cabbage-tree” to be transferred exclusively to that species. Colenso (Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 1, ed. 1, p. 32 of his Essay, “On the Botany…of the New Zealand Group), when writing of the fruits and trees used as vegetables, says: “The young inner blanched leaves and heart of the Ti, or “Cabbage-tree” (Cordyline australis), and of the Nikau, or New Zealand Palm (Areca sapida), were eaten both raw and cooked.” I have seen a long row of Cordyline in a public garden struggling to grow beyond the reach of schoolboys, who persisted in pulling the young central shoots, eating them with relish.
One would suppose that Kirk had forgotten the origin of the name when he says, “Settlers and bushmen generally apply the unmeaning name of ‘cabbage-tree.’” (Kirk, Forest Flora of N.Z., p. 295.) Cheeseman, too, says, “Universally known to New Zealand residents by the inappropriate name of ‘cabbage-tree’” (Cheeseman, Manual of N.Z. Flora, p. 707). Thomas explains the name, and errs in doing so: “It receives its name from the arrangement of its leaves in tufts or heads at the ends of the branches” (Clark, A Southern Cross Fairy-tale, p. 53). Butler remarks, “The cabbage-tree or ti-palm is not a true palm, though it looks like one. It has not the least resemblance to a cabbage.” The settlers and bushmen followed Cook in using the young heart as a vegetable, and in their naming of the tree; and when the reason for the name is known its inappropriateness disappears. To one section of the public it will always be the cabbage-tree; to the other section, let it be lily-palm. “Ti-tree” and “ti-palm” should certainly be banned, because of the hopeless confusion with tea-tree. Froude, in Oceana, constantly writes “ti-tree” when he refers to manuka scrub (tea-tree); and Cockayne notes a worse confusion in the naming of a railway-station Ti-tri (Cockayne. N.Z. Plants and their Story).
Tea-tree, too, is a name that has come through Cook's people. Manukaleaves were used for tea during his first visit, when the name “tea plant” was given. The plant is described and figured, and Cook writes in May, 1773, “The leaves, as I have already observed, were used by many of us astea, which has a very agreeable bitter, and flavour, when they are recent, but loses some of both when they are dried. When the infusion was made strong, it proved emetic to some in the same manner as green tea.” (Cook, Voyage towards the South Pole, 1779, vol. 1, p. 101; illus., p. 100.)
From the leaves of the rimu Cook brewed “spruce beer,” and the black-pine furnishes a beverage known to bushmen as “pine-beer,” The tree containing beer may usually be known by a black, smutty-looking stain that extends some way up the trunk; and if a hole be bored at the base the tree may be plugged and tapped like a barrel.
In the names of categories 4 and 5 (similarity to other objects) observation and imagination play a prominent part, and many pleasing names result. Ribbonwood, lacebark, and thousand-jacket, are most appropriate names, all applied to Gaya, Hoheria, and Plagianthus. Lemonwood is a good name for Pittosporum eugenioides, though the property is more obviously in the leaves than in the wood. The young leaves, when bruised between the fingers, emit a very agreeable fragrance resembling lemon. A scent was in the sap, for it was from this tree, the tarata, that the Maori gathered gum which he used for manufacturing a favourite perfume. He made incisions in the bark, and gathered the congealed drops on their oozing through.
The names of category 6 (similarity to other plants) show some observation, though little imagination. A number of these names persist—as “New Zealand holly,” for Olearia ilicifolia; “New Zealand teak,” for Vitex lucens. Many of them have been disused, the similarity proving too superficial for adoption and perpetuation of the name. There is a name of this kind lately given—“New Zealand hawthorn”—to Carpodetus serratus, one of our most graceful and beautiful flowering trees, and a tree New-Zealander, which Dr. Cockayne, in The Cultivation of New Zealand Plants (p. 109), commends as suitable for adoption as the national flower. This tree is not in the least like the hawthorn—in shape, foliage, colour or texture of bark, ramification, or fruit. The sole resemblance is in the flower, and in the appearance of the clustered flower only; scent and colour differ from the hawthorn. Moreover, this very name was given to the English tree to signify the thorn that bears a haw; and Carpodetus has neither haw nor thorn. Carpodetus itself is an attractive name: why should it not be adopted? Or why not adopt the Maori name, putaputaweta, or the recorded shorter form punaweta? Or, seeing that the point of resemblance is in the flower, and that the flower of the hawthorn is known as “may,” why not “Maori may”? Carpodetus much more closely resembles the silver birch, in general shape of the tree, shape and suspension of leaf, ramification, colour and texture of the bark—resemblances visible all the year round. “Maori silver birch” would be a much more appropriate name, were it not for the fact that there is already a name “silver beech,” and that the name “birch” has become anathema. The name “New Zealand hawthorn” might more appropriately be given to the already irrevocably named wildirishman, or scented thorn, or matagowry, whose leafless winter appearance is very like the lifeless appearance of the dry twisted hawthorn as seen in a hedge; and the scented white flower in spring gives one a leap of pleasure as does the hawthorn, with its “white sheet blanching on the hedge.”
The word “native” has been prefixed to almost as many names as the words “New Zealand”—native aniseed, native convolvulus, &c. This word may perhaps be descriptive if used within New Zealand and between NewZealanders; but if used outside—say, in Australia—its meaning will be quite changed; for should the New-Zealander speak of the “native teak,” the Australian would think not of a New Zealand but of an Australian tree. The confusion might be avoided were the word “Maori” used instead of “native,” and, indeed, instead of the long doublet “New Zealand.” There
is “Maori cabbage,” “Maori onion”—why not “Maori aniseed,” “Maori convolvulus,” &c.?
The names of category 8 (fantastic names) show the imagination running riot; they seem appropriate, though often it is impossible to give any definite reason for the name. No trace has been found of any reason for the name “wild-irishman” as applied to Discaria toumatou. Many old settlers have been questioned without result, or with such barren result as the following: One, being asked, “Why was the wild-irishman called the wild-irishman?” answered, “I suppose because it is like a wild Irishman.” “What characteristics have they in common?” “Well, I—I—I really can't say.” And so it is; it is a name that every one-understands, but no one can explain. Whilst it is often written with a capital, “Irishman,” it is now as often written with a small letter, “irishman”; and when it is the plant that is referred to the small letter should be used, leaving the form “wild Irishman” to signify the Sinn-Feiner. The same remark applies to the name for Aciphylla—“spaniard”—another name of unexplained origin. There seems even less connection between the human Spaniard and the vegetable spaniard than between the human wild Irishman and the vegetable wild-irishman; and the conjectured corruption “spine-yard,” whilst improbable, is no more improbable than the fabled “Bill's-yard” as the origin of “billiard.” The name “missionary-plant,” given by the Maori to the sweet-brier (Boyd, Our Stolen Summer, p. 77), does not come into this category, as the humour of it, more readily perceived, perhaps, by the agriculturist or pastoralist, was not intentional: it was so named as it was brought, for dear association' sake, by the homesick wife of a missionary.
Many of the names show considerable gifts of observation, imagination, and ingenuity there are others that show the namers to have been almost destitute of all three. Kirk in 1875 remarked: “…the term ‘birch’ may be regarded as a generic name applied by bushmen to any small-leaved tree, and qualified by the prefixes ‘black,’ ‘white,’ or ‘red,’ at the caprice of the individual, or as may be suggested by the colour of the foliage, bark, or timber.” (Reports on the Durability of N.Z. Timber, 1875, p. 16.) So the term “black birch” was in many districts applied to Pittosporum tenuifolium, and to Weinmannia racemosa in Otago—the latter tree being also known as “brown birch.” and “red birch.” Myrsine Urrillei was known as “red birch,” and Carpodetus serratus and Quintinia serrata as “white birch.” It was principally to trees of the species Nothofagus (then known as Fagus) that the term “birch” was applied, and a distinguishing of the various kinds by the prefixing of a descriptive word was a step in the right direction; but in this instance the step was on a path that led to a quagmire. To take only the instance of Nothofagus Solandri (formerly Fagus Solandri) this was known as “black” birch in the Wellington district; “black,” “white”, “red,” and “brown” birch in Canterbury; “white” birch in Nelson; “white,” “black,” and “black-heart” birch in Otago. “In the Oxford Bush” (Canterbury), says Kirk, “I learned that the tree [N. Solandri] was termed ‘red birch,’ ‘brown birch,’ ‘white birch,’ ‘black birch,’ and ‘yellow birch’ at different stages of its growth, but the application of these terms varied greatly; perhaps ‘black birch’ was most generally applied to the mature condition before decay commenced, and ‘white birch’ to the young state; but there were too many exceptions to allow of the names being other than misleading.”
The confusion created has been endless; it has at times even resulted in commercial loss; yet so strong is habit that confusion was preferred before a change of name. And, indeed, the bushmen might well ask what name they should adopt; for the scientists came and added to the confusion by pointing out that the trees usually called “birch” were not birch at all, but beech—when a fresh crop of names resulted: “black beach,” “red beech,” “dusky beech,” &c. The scientists themselves, however, in calling the species Nothofagus “beech,” took care—that is, usually took care—to make the distinguishing prefix one that would not lead to a repetition of the old confusion. N. Solanderi was accordingly called “entire-leaved beech”; N. cliffortioides, “mountain beech”; N. Menziesii, “round-leaved beech”; N. fusca, “tooth-leaved beech.” It was some time before even these names were agreed upon; and “silver beech” finally took the place of “round-leaved beech” for N. Menziesii. A note may here be made of the fact that, whilst the entire-leaved beech was Fagus Solandri, on Fagus being changed to Nothofagus, Solandri was altered to Solanderi; but this has been altered back again to Solandri, for that was the original and not incorrect spelling of the word.
Again, these common, unimaginative names may take a double form—“tree-nettle” and “nettle-tree”; “tree-fuchsia” and “fuchsia-tree”; “tree-grass” and “grass-tree.” The form taken depends upon the name-giver thinking, say, of the fuchsia, “This tree is like a fuchsia”—whence “fuchsia-tree”; or “This fuchsia is like a tree”—whence “tree-fuchsia.” “Fuchsia” and “tree” become the descriptive part of the name according to the thought perceiving the plant as a tree or a fuchsia. Were the names to be retained, therefore, the correct form would be “tree-nettle,” “tree-fuchsia,” seeing that the plants are primarily nettle and fuchsia, and secondarily tree-like. Of the names “tree-grass” and “grass-tree” as applied to Cordyline, however, “grass-tree” would be the correct form, seeing that this plant is tree primarily, and grass-like secondarily. When Dr. Cockayne called Olearia sp. “daisy-tree” he used the correct form. In the second edition of New Zealand Plants and their Story, however, he changed it to “tree-daisy,” bringing it into line with other similar compounds—“tree-coprosma,” “tree-fuchsia,” “tree-heath,” “tree-moss,” “tree-lupin,” &c.—all of which are correct; for in these instances the plants are larger in growth than ordinary—so large that in comparison with related forms they seem tree-like. The Olearia, however, is not a daisy of such giant growth that it is like a tree, but a tree that bears flowers like daisies; it is, in fact, a tree that reminds one of a daisy—not a daisy that reminds one of a tree. He calls the false mountain-holly (O. macrodonta) a “tree-daisy”; but had this plant been like a daisy that had grown as big as a tree it would never have been called a holly: the tree is holly-like in general appearance, daisy-like in the flower; and what is meant when it is said that the false mountain-holly is a daisy-tree is that it is a holly-like tree with a daisy-like flower. “Cabbage-tree” has not been changed to “tree-cabbage,” and rightly; nor should “daisy-tree” have been changed to “tree-daisy.” The name “palm-lily,” again, should be “lily-palm”; for primarily the tree is, in resemblance at least, a palm: it is a palm with lily-like flower. To the casual observer—and that means the usual observer—the tree is more like a palm than the flower is like a lily. One authority is quoted for the form “lily-palm.”
These compound names, too, show a curious tendency towards coalescence. This is revealed in writing and printing; their coalescence
there reveals the coalescence in the thought. They start as two words, then the two words are hyphened, and finally the hyphen is dropped, the two being then written and pronounced as one word—broad leaf, broad-leaf, broadleaf. When this takes place there is a subtle change of accent, more or less marked. As two words, each word has its own accent: as a compound the first word retains its accent, but the accent on the second is subdued or suppressed. Many New Zealand names occur in the three forms—blue bell, blue-bell, bluebell; duck weed, duck-weed, duckweed; supple jack, supple-jack, supplejack; lace bark, lace-bark, lacebark; &c. The distinction in the accent is clearly heard if we say aloud, “The bluebell has a white or blue bell; and its blue bell caused it to be called the bluebell.” Occasionally three words are connected, or even four: forget-me-not, love-in-a-mist. I have seen as many as six—“Jack-go-to-sleep-at-noon,” or “Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon,” for Ornithogalum umbellatum and Tragopogon pratensis. The hyphens have not yet been dropped, and tha names probably do not occur in literature as forgetmenot and loveinamist. Forget-me-not is printed as one word in German—vergissmeinnicht. Whilst the hyphening and compounding may be, and probably is, in large measure due to the writers, it is possible that in many instances they are due to the printer, or at least to the publisher's reader. A good reader will decide upon a certain course, consistent as may be maintained, and writers may find a difficulty in throwing him off that course; or they may be indifferent, which furnishes the reader with his justification.
There are certain words that have long resisted the hyphening tendency. The words “white pine,” “black pine,” &c., have from the beginning appeared as two words. In writing of, say, the last fifteen years, however, the forms “black-pine,” “white-pine,” “silver-pine,” “silver-beech,” &c., have become common. The hyphening of these seems to date from about 1905, and is now the rule rather than the exception. This remark, however, needs some modification; for a great number of the papers and books from which the hyphened words have been gathered are the work of one writer, Dr. Cockayne. But there is this to be said: When a leading writer, and a writer of authority, uses names in a certain form, his lead is almost sure to be followed; so that his introduction of hyphening will go a long way towards establishing the custom—the more so since his writing covers the whole New Zealand botanical field so thoroughly. As far back as 1889, however, the most unusual forms “blackpine” and “blackmaire” appear; but since these are given as English names in a French work—Fleurs sauvages et bois precieux de la Nouvelle-Zélande, by Mrs. Hetley and M. Raoul—they can hardly be taken as indicating a tendency in the English language, though certainly they do indicate a general linguistic tendency. At first the names look strangely and startlingly unusual; but the strangeness soon wears off; and, as the hyphen is perhaps no more than the indication that two words are in process of becoming a compound word, “blackpine” should naturally follow from “black pine” and “black-pine.” “Black-moor” of “Paradise Regained” (iv, 72) is now “blackamoor.” In the opening of “The Cherrie and the Slae” Montgomery has “with gallant gold-spinks gay”; but Bewick prints the word “goldspink”; and “goldfinch” is now always one word. It cannot be said, however, that it will always be one word; for even the long-familiar name “blackbird” appears occasionally as two unhyphened words, “blackbird.” In My New Zealand Garden, 1902, p. 74, it occurs as two words twice on one page, whilst “goldfinch” occurs on the same page as one word.
Uncensored writing and printing furnish curious evidence of the working of the human mind: some minds seem to need no hyphens in compound words; others seem to require them as cautious alpine climbers require a rope. Moreover, there is change in the habits even of the habitual writer. In the first edition of the well-known New Zealand Plants and their Story the words “bracken fern” are used early in the book: seventy pages on they are hyphened, “bracken fern”; had the book been half as long again we may have had the form “brackenfern.” Again, in the same book the hyphened “candlennt,” proceeds to “candlenut,” and “willow-herb” to “willowherb.” Again, the sea-side brome grass” of Buchanan (? Kirk) becomes the “seaside brome-grass” of Cockayne.
Is there any danger of words with two descriptive prefixes becoming one word—for instance, “yellow silver pine”? It already has one hyphen, and there is a form “yellow-pine,” so “yellow-silver-pine” is not impossible: is “yellowsilverpine”? It is almost to be hoped that it is not possible, or we may fall in the rugged way of Teutomic agglutination. The appropriate but little-used “wait-a-bit” is not in this category, as it is a name, not merely a description. The name “paper-mulberry-tree,” of Mueller is in the category, and in it the second hyphen at least seems unnecessary. If the oak be also called “tree” it is not “oak-tree,” but “oak-tree”: the hyphen adds nothing to the meaning, nor does it remove any ambiguity. The name “forget-me-not” as a flower is practically one word, yet it loses nothing of its homogeneity if printed as Armstrong prints it, without hyphens, “forget me not,” for it is the expression of a desire, as well as a flower.
The hyphening tendency, and the following agglutination, appear, however, to be natural tendencies, betraying a species of Teutonic outcrop in our flexible, composite language; and their appearance is by no means confined to botanists or scientists. The word “castiron” appeared in the local Dominion newspaper in June, 1919; whilst the Oxford University Press Rules for Compositors and Readers includes “cast iron” in a list of compound words that should be printed without the hyphen. In the first editions of Tennyson's poems the following compounds appear, amongst others: In “The Lady of Shalott, 1833—yellowleavèd, greensheathèd, overtrailed, silken sailed, pearlgarland, barleysheaves, thickjewelled; and in “Mariana,” 1830—casementcurtain and marishmosses. In the Collected Poems of 1851, both “yellowleavèd,” and “greensheathèd, “which appeared in stanza 1, were dropped in the remodelling of that stanza; “overtrailed” and “silkensailed” became “barges trail'd” and “silken-sail'd”; the “pearlgarland” was dropped altogether; “barleysheaves” became two words—“barley sheaves”; “thickjewelled” and others were hyphened—“thick-jewell'd.” The two compounds from “Mariana.” were also hyphened, and so they have remained. Tennyson himself, speaking of the word “tendriltwine” in Poems by. Two Brothers, says, “I had an absurd antipathy to hyphens, and put two words together as one word.” His antipathy had been conquered, apparently, by 1851. In “The Lady of Shalott,” however, appear the compounds “village-churls,” “market-girls,” “bower-eaves,” “saddle-leather”; these remain in 1851, all but “market-girls,” where the hyphen is dropped—“market girls”—and this distinction still remains. Whilst the poet is not quite consistent in his practice, it is evident he perceived and followed a principle; and so with others—there is a percentible drift towards the hyphening or agglutination, especially of words of one syllable. At the same time there is apparent
a resistance to the drift, so that words that look and sound as though they might well coalesce, break again even if they coalesce for a time—as though these were a more or less definite size natural to the idea-crystals, at least in English.
The reason for the coalescence appears to be this: The prefixed word, whilst at first merely descriptive, gradually comes to be regarded as part of the word; and as a matter of fact it is part of the word. Take the familiar name “blackbird.” It is evident that the original name-givers recognized this songster simply as a black bird. There were doubtless many other black birds, but this one attracted attention so much, to the exclusion of others, that it became the black bird, the two names joining, with the idea, as one—“blackbird.” So it is with other compound names: once the prefixed word comes to be regarded as actually part of the name—when word and description are one in thought—coalescence takes place. There is no whitebird, though there are white birds; there is a whitethroat, however; a blackcap; a redpoll; and so on. There appears to be no necessity for hyphening the prefixed descriptive word unless the compound word resulting differs in meaning from the unhyphened words. If the descriptive word be a substantive there seems to be more logic in inserting the hyphen, though the example given by the American writer on this subject, F. Horace Teall, does not cover all instances. He points out that “paper-box” means a box made of paper, whereas “paper-box” means a box for holding paper. When Paratrophis was called the “milk-tree,” however, the name merely meant “the tree with milk-like sap,” and that is the meaning that would almost certainly be assumed by any one first seeing the name. Omission of the hyphen would not change the meaning to “the tree made of milk,” and “milk tree” is as clear in meaning as “milk-tree.” Milk is one substance, however, and tree is another; and when both are used as one name there seems to be some natural tendency to join them with a hyphen and make them one word. In the instance “oak tree,” oak is already a tree, and does not need the second word at all, nor would the coalescence of the words change the meaning in any degree. On further descriptive words being prefixed to “milk-tree,” as in “large-leaved milk-tree,” a second hyphen is required to join the two descriptive words. If it were intended to say that the milk-tree was a large tree with leaves, then “large leaved milk-tree” would be sufficient; but in this instance the “large” refers to the leaf and not to the tree. “Silver pine” does not mean a pine made of silver, any more than “milk tree” means “tree made of milk.” The debatable ground appears when the question arises as to whether “silver” is a substantive or an adjective; if an adjective, there is no need for the hyphen between it and the substantive following: that is, adjective is hyphened to adjective, substantive to substantive—“golden-haired,” but “golden hair.” Thus the forms “cranesbill” and “parrotsbill” are better than “crane's bill” and “parrot's bill.” The latter may refer to the actual bill of a crane or a parrot; the former has quite another significance An illustrative example is the name “hanging-tree spleenwort” given by Potts to Asplenium flaccidum. The hyphening is here incorrect. As at present, it means the spleenwort growing on the hanging-tree, whereas it was intended to mean the hanging spleenwort which grows on a tree. The form should therefore be “hanging tree-spleenwort.”
All statements must, however, be made with caution, for refutation may be met on every hand. Should the forms be “yellow wood” and
“white wood,” or “yellow-wood” (yellowwood) and “white-wood” (whitewood)? The latter seem preferable, if only for the reason that “yellow wood” and “white wood” may mean wood that is yellow or white. “Yellowwood,” again, seems to offer an objection in the doubled w, and the hyphen is usually present in words like “yellow-wort,” “yellow-weed,” “mallow-wort”; but “chaffinch” had at first to contend with a tripled consonant “chaff-finch”: it simply ignored one of them, and a w might similarly be ignored—“yellowood” if two seem objectionable—“yellowwood.”
In passing, two recent names of this kind may receive a moment's attention—“red tea-tree” and “white tea-tree,” given, on account of the colour of their wood, to Leptospermum scoparium and L. ericoides respectively. As however, there are red and white-flowering manuka, and the flowers are far more evident to the ordinary observer than the cut wood, it is inevitable that it will be supposed that the names were given because of the flowers, and confusion must follow. It would be better to nip these names in the bud.
The whole argument regarding the hyphening or otherwise of words seems to become unnecessary, and to collapse when it is remembered that in speech there is no indication, or no certain indication, of the presence or absence of a hyphen. The slight difference in accent between “black bird” and “blackbird” is too slight to be relied on; and, moreover, accent varies with individuals, and even with mood. Yet the fact that one compound may appear objectionable when written, and another unobjectionable, shows that there is a linking-up in the thought, even if unconscious; and and it is this mental linking-up that affects the pronunciation. Confusion is less likely to occur in writing than in speaking, and in the written sentence the context will show if the words “black cap” are to be taken as the bird or as the cap that is black.
F. Horace Teall, already mentioned, has attempted the formulation of rules for the compounding of English words; but the rules arrived at are altogether too complex, and also appear incapable of application. He gives a long list of phrases or words which should not be joined, and a list of words which should not be separated. In the following, a few of the former are given in the first column, a few of the latter in the second:—
There appears to be no reason, other than usage, for one form more than the other; and if usage be urged as the reason for the difference then the rule is usage—a rule that cannot possibly be set down. It is true that in one case the second word is more particular, in the other more general; “pine” is a particular class, as “red pine,” but “wood” is a general term, so “redwood.” “Grass” is a particular class, so “blue grass,” whilst “weed” is general, so “blueweed.” Yet we have the form “black-pine”;
and in speaking of “Kentucky blue grass,” does not the decided accent on the “blue” as compared with the light accent on the “grass,” together with the shortening of the pause between the two words, show that in thought the words are coalesced—“blue-grass” if not “bluegrass”? Then if “greenbird” to distinguish it from the general class of green birds, why not “greenlinnet” to distinguish it from other linnets? “Goldfinch” and “chaffinch” might be quoted to illustrate the coalescence; but it might then be pointed out that these are two substantives, not adjective and substantive. Teall complains that the makers of dictionaries apparently make no attempt to use the hyphen according to some definite rule. He is right: no attempt is made, and the reason is given by the editors of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1911. “We have also to admit,” they write, “that after trying hard at an early stage to arrive at some principle that should teach us when to separate, when to hyphen, and when to unite the parts of compound words, we had to abandon the attempt as hopeless, and welter in the prevailing chaos.” Not all dictionarymakers are so pessimistic, however; and in the 1923 edition of Funk and Wagnall's New Standard Dictionary F. Horace Teall has made the heroic attempt to maintain a consistent system of hyphening through the two big volumes.
In the Oxford University Press Rules for Compositors, 1912, referred to above, an attempt has been made to formulate a few rules that may guide, if they cannot direct and control:—
“The hyphen need not, as a rule, be used to join an adverb to the adjective which it qualifies: as in—a beautifully furnished house; a well calculated scheme. When the word might not at once be recognized as an adverb, use the hyphen: as—a well-known statesman; the best-known proverb: a good-sized room; a new-found country.
“When an adverb qualifies a predicate, the hyphen should not be used: as—this fact is well known.
“Where either (1) a noun and adjective or participle, or (2) an adjective and noun, in combination, are used as a compound adjective, the hyphen should be used: a poverty-stricken family; a blood-red hand; a nineteenth-century invention.
“A compound noun which has but one accent, and from familiar use has become one word, requires no hyphen: bla'ckbird; hai'rbrush; ha'nd-book; ma'ntelpiece; scho'olboy; whe'elbarrow.
“Compound words of more than one accent, as a'pple-tre'e, che'rry-pie’, gra'vel-wa'lk, as well as others which follow, require hyphens: air-man; arm-chair; death-rate; farm-house; hour-glass; jaw-bone; new-built; race-course.”
Thus far the rules may be followed, since they appear formulated on some comprehensible reason, though the words last quoted seem to be in a half-way condition; for surely no hyphen is needed in airman, farmhouse, hourglass, jawbone, racecourse. The last rule, however, appears rather to be an arbitrary instruction; for after saying that “half an inch,” “half a dozen,” &c., require no hyphen, it is added: “Print the following also without hyphens: cast iron; court martial; easy chair; high road; plum pudding; post office.” It has been objected that whilst no hyphen is needed in “jawbone” considered by itself, yet it is found convenient to compound it as one of a large category of similar expressions, some of which would not make good consolidated words, as “arm-bone,” “leg-bone,” thigh-bone,” &c. Yet it is a matter of custom; for “jawbone” and “backbone” do not come amiss, and why should “armbone” and “legbone”?
This paper was written before these Rules for Compositors were seen, and the writer was gratified to find himself so much in accord with the Rules; but this last instruction seems to flout the rules themselves, and it will not be observed. “Highway” is an accepted form—why not “high-road” or even “highroad”? The latter is used, and, as noted above, “castiron” has been used. “Court-martial,” too, follows rule, as do “plum-pudding” and “post-office.” In speech, one can only tell uncertainly from the accent if the speaker conceives of the compound as one word or two.
The Maori was a prolific name-giver; and his names show him to have been possessed of a keen sense of discrimination, so that many of those names may be adopted without fear of confusion, and more are being adopted from year to year. In his new edition of New Zealand Plants and their Story, Dr. Cockayne has finally adopted “rimu,” “matai,” “kahikatea,” instead of the English “red,” “black,” and “white” pine. He has adopted “koromiko” in place of “veronica”—an adoption that will help to keep in mind the distinction between the English and New Zealand forms of veronica. Like the bushman, though not to the same extent, the Maori was puzzled by the various species of beech, and Kirk excepts his beech-names when recommending the adoption of Maori names generally. “In the great majority of cases,” says he, “the Maori names are much better adapted for commercial use than those commonly employed” (Kirk, Forest Flora of N.Z., Pref., p. vi). There is now no attempt made to supplant such names as “kauri,” “totara,” “pukatea;” “karaka,” “ngaio,” “tawa”—partly because the distinctiveness of the trees made adoption of the names easier than the invention of others. Unsuccessful attempts were made to supplant “puriri,” “titoki,” “kowhai,” with “New Zealand teak,” “New Zealand ash,” “New Zealand laburnum.” Maori and European names have been used indifferently in “rimu,” “matai,” “kahikatea”—red, black, and white pine; “kotukutuku” and “kohutuhutu” have given way to “fuchsia,” or to the now less common misnomer “konini-tree,” unless used in the sense that “pear-tree” is used; “makomako” has given place to “wineberry,” or “New Zealand currant.” In some instances the Maori name has been adopted but corrupted: “matagowry” for “tumatakuru,” where “wild-irishman” is not used; “biddy-bid” for “piripiri”; “bunger” (now fortunately seldom heard) for “ponga”; “cracker” (also falling into disuse) for “karaka.” “Kowhai” went through many stages—“goa,” “gohi,” &c., before settling to the two forms “kowhai” in the North and “gowhai” or “gowai” in the South. In one instance the Maori name has been adopted in a translated and shortened form—” parrot's-beak,” or “kaka-beak,” for “kowhaingutukaka.” In some instances the varieties of the trees have been distinguished by the prefixing of a European term to a Maori name—“black mapau,” “white mapau”; or the name has, by corruption, been made quite European, and quite wrong, by changing “mapau” to “maple.” The various ratas have been more or less distinguished as “shining rata,” “southern rata,” “white-flowering rata,” &c. At first the Maori names were used with hyphens separating the parts—“kowhai-ngutu-kaka”; and, whilst this may be a convenience, enabling easier analysis of a long word, Archdeacon Williams rejects the hyphens and joins the parts—.“kowhaingutukaka”—as in the good English “cranesbill.” With him the Maori substantive has almost completely shed the hyphen.
Is there any way of arriving at some uniformity of nomenclature, and of avoiding the confusion too often occasioned by the loosely-given common names? “Yes,” answers the scientist, one of the most observant of nature's observers, “by the adoption of a fixed nomenclature based on words derived from Latin or Greek; when the name, once adopted, is recognized throughout the scientific world, and may be recognized by the unscientific world also.” Devoutly-wished consummation! But the “once adopted” is a stumbling-block and an offence. We were taught by the scientists to speak of the nikau always as Areca sapida. That name became quite familiar, when it was discovered that the plant belonged to another genus, and we were bidden to think and write of the nikau no longer as Areca sapida, but as Rhopalostylis sapida, the genus Areca remaining, though the nikau is no longer in its fold, and Areca sapida becoming no more than a synonym. Relief from the birch-cum-beech confusion was found in Fagus: and later we were required to prefix Notho-, referring to our beeches as Nothofagus (the southern fagus), and to remember at the same time that Noto-when prefixed to other of our plants, as Notosparlium and Notothlaspi, was not a misprint but meant something quite different from Notho—“false,” to wit. Even when, in spite of widespread wont, we had accustomed ourselves to thinking and writing of birch as “beech,” we were bidden go one further and think and write of it as “southern beech.” Panax became partly Nothopanax and partly Pseudopanax. From these changes—and the changing of scientific names is by no means a phenomenon of recent date—has arisen a multiplicity of synonyms (see the pages of Cheeseman, whose lists are not exhaustive) almost equalling in number the synonyms of the bushman; and we begin to suspect the supplanter Jacob the scientist to be no better than his brother Esau the bushman. Potts, knowing a certain fern as Hymenophyllum montanum, gave it the common name “the mountain broad-leaved filmy fern.” But H. atrovirens, the original name, must stand, and the common name remains as witness to the defection of its scientific fellow. His rendering of Lomaria duplicata as the double fern was good, but unfortunately did not prevent the original name, L. capensis, being adopted. And now, L. capensis (= Blechnum capensis) being found only at the Cape, the name is to be Blechnum procerum!
The changes in the scientific names, however, are not due to any mere casual drift; a goal is in view, and a course has been set out. The Rules of Botanical Nomenclature, adopted by the Vienna Congress in 1905, and published in 1906, were sound and good. In every instance the name first given and placed on record is the name to be recognized and finally adopted. A plant may be given a new name provisionally; but if it is found subsequently that it has been placed in the wrong genus the generic name may be changed, but the specific name stands: thus it was that Areca sapida became Rhopalostylis sapida. By these means a uniformity of nomenclature is certainly a possibility (supposing, of course, that the names are adopted by scientists the world over); and by the complete co-operation of scientists the possibility will speedily become an actuality. The piling of synonyms merely means the shedding of discarded names in favour, not of a new one, but of an earlier and the final one. The synonyms are names that have been given somewhat in the manner that the common names have been given; but whereas it is impossible to say which, if any, of the common names will finally be adopted, in scientific nomenclature there is now a certainty because there is a definite rule, with a definite end in view.
There is much to be said, too, for scientific nomenclature. It offers universal intelligibility. It is, moreover, based on the principle adopted by primeval and uncultured man himself, and by his successors, the settler and bushman. It is in the giving of a name that savage, settler, and scientist alike display imagination or the lack of it. As a general rule, though there are many exceptions, and some dreadful exceptions, the characteristic features of the plant are taken and expressed in the tongue adopted, be it Greek or Latin. Brachy-glottis, “broad leaf,” is a name that appeals at once to any one familiar with the characteristic foliage of the rangiora. So, too, does Aci-phylla, the sharp leaf, to any one familiar with the spaniard: and who is not? Pteris aquilina, the “eaglet's wing,” is a beautiful name, of instant appeal; and when esculenta is added, the appeal is there, though it may be of a lower order. Nor does it matter that pteris was the general name in Greek for fern; the poetry of the name-giving is simply more ancient in date—its lineage is proven to be well founded in antiquity. But here we have to remember that in future this form of a name—Pteris aquilina var. esculenta—is a synonym only; the new name is Pteridium esculentum. So pitto-sporum, the “pitchy seed”; hymeno-phyllum, the “membranous leaf”; ptero-stylis, the “winged style”—these are apt names; and, were Greek and Latin vulgar tongues, the names would be adopted at once, and permanently adopted—as pteris was adopted. This adoption might be ensured were the signification of the name added in brackets, at least until the name became familiar. This could well be done in popular books and in text-books; the unlettered are not unresponsive to the appeal of beauty, and many of the scientific names are undoubtedly beautiful in meaning. This translation of the scientific name has been done, in a manner, in The Plants of New Zealand, by Laing and Blackwell—only there appears to be but little use and not much more help in translating Chenopodium triandrum as the “triandrous cheno-podium”; Ixerba brexioides as the “brexia-like ixerbia”; Pennantia corymbosa as the “corymbose pennantia”; and Calystegia Soldanella as the “soldanella-like calystegia.” The adoption of many scientific names is proof that they are not regarded with rooted aversion, or with an aversion so deeply rooted that it cannot be eradicated.
Geranium, pelargonium, rhododendron, chrysanthemum, gladiolus, calceolaria—all are apt names, pleasing in sound and poetical in concept. But it must be confessed that it was probably neither the aptness nor the poetry that influenced their adoption, for the adopter was usually ignorant of both. Rather their adoption was an indication of the paucity of imagination; adoption, though difficult, was less difficult than invention. How else could antirrhinum be adopted—and eschscholtzia—and even fuchsia?—names of perpetual bane to unfortunate youth. The pronunciation of the last two, furthermore, by no means agrees with the language from which they are derived; and it is an added hardship that as a rule no explanation of the name is offered to the struggling mind; the name is nothing but an unreasonable aggregation of letters. The names are, moreover, inappropriate, being merely names of botanists,—Fuchs (Fox) and Eschscholtz; nor is the latter much easier when we are told that the t may now be dropped, “eschscholzia.” Without doubt memory is a miraculous gift, and is most patient under abuse. A quotation from Domett may not be out of place:—
Life's the green Cone-cap hiding for its hour
That golden Californian poppy-bud;
Death pulls it off—outbursts the Soul—the flower!
—Ranolf and Amohia, Bk. 1, Can. 5, Sec. 14.
He says of the second line, “The circumlocution…necessitated by the infinitely barbarous scientific name given to the beautiful flower ‘Eschscholtzia’ !” Of names of this kind there are many adopted—“lobelia,” “camellia,” “godetia,” “boronia”—names immortalized, and in how fugitive creations! “Kniphofia” has not been adopted, and there is little wonder in that. Gardeners use the alternative name “tritoma”; but the popular names are “torch-lily,” “red-hot poker”; and to which namer must be awarded the palm for imagination?
Scientists often have themselves to blame if their names are rejected: what cause other than perversity originated such names as Tmesipteris, Ehrharta, Staehelina, Mniarum, Rhabdothamnus? They do but court rejection, and deserve it. An excellent usage, too, has been too seldom followed: why not use the Maori name as the specific name? This was done in Podocarpus totara, in Beilschmiedia taraire, in Beilschmiedia tawa. It is too late to remedy the omission now, or we might have Alectryon titoki, Aristotelia makomako, Edwardsia kowhai, and the like graceful wedding of the old and the new.
Setting aside, too, the difficulties presented by a strange tongue to innocence when it meets an unusual word like pteris, the scientist in his speech often still further disguises and makes repellant the name which otherwise might appeal. As often as not, he pronounces “pit'to-sporum” “pittos'porum”; “a'ci-phylla” “aciph'ylla”; and so on. Mr. G. M. Thomson gives a little sage advice on this point: “I take it,” he says, “that without being pedantic the pronunciation should as far as possible follow the derivation.” The inconsistency of accentuation, too, is a puzzle: if “pittos'porum,” and not “pit'to-sporum,” why not “dracoph'yllum” and “pteros'tylis,” and not “drac'o-phyllum” and “pter'o-stylis”? And, whilst he has not heard it, the writer learns that “pteros'tylis” is not unknown. Field has a paragraph to the point: “As my book is intended chiefly for unlearned readers, to the names of the ferns at the heads of the descriptions and elsewhere I have appended a guide to the pronunciation, to prevent such common mistakes as pronouncing Hymenophyllum (Hymen-o-phyl-lum), which means ‘filmy leaf’; Hymenophilum (Hymenoph-il-um), which would mean ‘film-loving,’ and be nonsense: or calling Gleichenia, in which the ei has the hard sound of i in ‘file,’ the ch is a guttural, and the second e scarcely sounded, as if it were written Glikeenia or Gleekeenia.” In the pronunciation of “Hymenophyllum” he follows Johnson, who in The Gardener's Dictionary gives it as “Hymenophy'llum,” and Wright, who in his Encyclopaedia of Gardening gives it as “Hymen-ophyl-lum.” The name “Alsophila” Field prints “Al-soph-il-a,” and here the accent is correctly placed on the “o,” following Johnson and Wright, who print a word of similar derivation, gypsophila, “gypso'phila” and gypso'ph-ila respectively. The reason for the difference is in the difference of the root:—
[The section below cannot be correctly rendered as it contains complex formatting. See the image of the page for a more accurate rendering.]
|Hymen, a membrane;||phyllon, a leaf.|
|Alsos, a forest;||phileo, to love.|
|Gypsos, chalk;||phileo, to love.|
The confusion in accentuation is no doubt partly due to the close resemblance of the words; but the confusion might be avoided were the roots and meaning given with the name in the first place—unless, that is, botany is to be only a written science.
It is true, too, that this curious shifting of the accent appears to follow an inexplicable tendency in our language; for whilst we say tel'egraph, arith'metic, ad'vertise, we say teleg'raphy, arithmet'ical, adver'tisement:
the derivation is revealed in one word, concealed in its fellow. In following this apparently instinctive law, we say, not te'tra-ptera, but tetrap'tera, giving a fuller sound to the p than it had, or than we suppose it had, in the original. In ptera the p was so subdued that the pt is ordinarily represented by t; and it is no doubt due to the desire for easier pronunciation of what looks like the representation of a double sound that the p and t have been separated, making two sounds of what should be one. Tetrap'tera has its parallel in another science—entomology—where tetrap'terous is used instead of tetra-pterous (four-winged). Here, too, a whole series of generic names is given an English accent—lepidop'tera, hymenop'tera, neurop'tera, dip'tera, &c., instead of le'pido-ptera (scaly-winged), hy'meno-ptera (membranous-winged), neu'ro-ptera (nervenet-winged), di'-ptera (two-winged), &c.; yet in the parallel words lep'idosau'ria, lep'idosi'ren, and lep'idoden'dron the root accent is given.
If this shifting of the accent be in obedience to a linguistic law, we must, will we, nill we, abide by it, contenting ourselves merely with pointing out that the law is inconsistent, and that certain persons do aid and abet it in its inconsistency. But then, our vigorous and felicitous tongue is such an agglomeration of inconsistencies, to our seeming, that a few more or less hardly matter—except to the unfortunate struggling for expression. Parallel formations exert an influence, and the familiar pronunciation of the combination apt would no doubt present itself unconsciously to the thought when a new combination, such as apteryx was met, and hence the common ap'-teryx, instead of a-pte'ryx (without wings). In pte'ro-dactyl the sound of the p has been dropped since the pt begins the word: why not when it begins the syllable within the word?
In volume 51 of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, pp. 409–14, Professor A. Wall expresses himself in a paper, wide in interest, if pessimistic in tone, regarding the pronunciation of scientific terms. He suggests the adoption of certain classical pronunciations, to be decided upon by a proposed committee, and adopted by future scientists. But even if, in the first place, the scientists themselves were able to agree on the pronunciations to be adopted, and would use them consistently when adopted, they form but a small section of the public, and any attempt of theirs to stem the set of popular pronunciation would be, as Professor Wall fears, foredoomed to failure. If certain linguistic laws govern the sound of phonetics when adopted by one language from another, Latin and Greek phonetics cannot escape that law, nor can the change be prevented, however much it may offend the ear: it were perhaps easier to remove the offence by modifying the individual ear. Then, too, pronunciation is not fixed; and the committee, if appointed, were like to prove a perennial—and a struggling perennial. Moreover, botanical treatises are far more often written than spoken, and in writing or reading pronunciation is of no moment; and, as one leading scientist has said, “whichever way the word is pronounced, I know what is meant, and that is the main thing.”
It has been noted that in giving the generic name some characteristic of the plant has been seized on, and from this many good names result. There is more difficulty in giving the specific name, though here advantage may be taken of minor distinguishing characteristics. This is well seen in the specific names of the genus Veronica—buxifolia, diosmaefolia, dasyphylla, leiophylla, ligustrifolia, pinguifolia, salicifolia, where the leaf-difference has been taken as the characteristic; acutiflora, parviflora, uniflora, where the flower has been taken; cupressoides, loganioides, lycopodioides, pimeleoides, where its resemblance to some other plant has been taken; and so on. But there is nothing descriptive in such specific names as Balfouriana,
Barkeri, Benthami, Bidwillii, Buchanani, Buxbaumii—to take the Bs only in this variable genus. Sometimes this proper name is the name of the discoverer of the species, and it is then tolerable; sometimes it is the name of a good worker in this or another science, when it is barely tolerable; sometimes it is the name of a friend of the name-giver, when it becomes unreasonable. The aggravation is as acute when the common name is made merely a translation of a name of this kind—Buchanan's veronica; and it is a pleasure to find that in Dr. Cockayne's book, already referred to, this system of common naming has been discarded. There is surely no plant so undistinguished that it has no characteristic of which advantage may be taken in giving a name; it certainly can have no common name unless it have some characteristic, in appearance, or use, or obtrusiveness, upon which the common mind is able to fasten, even if it receive a name like the “innominate” of osteology.
Dr. Cockayne has made a considerable beginning in the invention of common names for the lesser known New Zealand plants; and, whilst he shows inconsistency, it is palpably no more than the inconsistency of a mind working towards a definite end in the midst of much difficulty and obscurity. He adopts one name, and later on discards it for one he considers more appropriate. Many of the names given bear their own warrant of adoption, many as sure a warrant of their rejection. In the naming of ferns he has in most instances followed Potts, one of our early and most prolific name-givers; and in the naming of grasses he has followed Buchanan—hyphen in hand. Objection has already been taken to the naming of Carpodetus serratus “New Zealand hawthorn”; and objection must also be made to such names as “common mountain shrubby groundsel,”. “persicaria-leaved pond-weed,” “broad-leaved tussock oat-grass.” This is not name-giving, it is description. And the objection of length may almost as reasonably be urged against these names as against such scientific names as Anthurium Scherzerianum album maximum flavescens, the name given to the white-flowered anthurium (Gardener's Chronicle, 1886, p. 187). “Gentian” is a good name; “New Zealand gentian” is hardly a new name, still less is “common New Zealand gentian”—they simply modify an old name. So the various willowherbs are distinguished by a characterizing adjective; but these are not names. It is not necessary that all willowherbs should have that name with modifying adjective. True, the “bottle-campion” is a variety of the campion, as are the “red campion” and the “white campion”; but so are the “ragged robin,” the spotted catch-fly, and the “German catch-fly.” The mind to which a common name appeals is not concerned whether or no that name reveals the relation of the plants one to another; if the name and the plant are well mated, that is sufficient. “Hart's-tongue” and “maiden-hair” are sufficient without the addition of “fern”; the names catch the imagination. “Oak” and “poplar” need no addition to tell the common mind they are trees. In Dr. Cockayne's book, “three-square” as a name for Scirpus americanus is a true name, and seems good; good names, also, are “starlily,” “coral-shrub,” “bell-vine,” “pen-wiper plant”; and there is little doubt that once our New Zealand plants become thoroughly well known, through such excellent books and papers as Dr. Cockayne's, many of his tentative names will irrevocably be discarded for others, more concise if perhaps less descriptive. And one of the first to accept the new names will be Dr. Cockayne. It is no easy matter to invent a new name; and it is not, perhaps, the scientist to whom we should look for the new names, but his complement, the poet; and he does no more than give expression to feelings that had first to be general before he might win the power of
enduring expression. It is this general feeling that gives the charm to Bridges's poem “The Idle Flowers”:—
I have sown upon the fields
Eyebright and Pimpernel,
And Pansy and Poppy-seed
Ripen'd and scatter'd well,
And silver Lady-smock,
The meads with light to fill,
Cowslip and Buttercup,
Daisy and Daffodil;
King-cup and Fleur-de-lys
Upon the marsh to meet
With Comfrey, Watermint,
Loose-strife and Meadowsweet;
And all along the stream
My care hath not forgot
Crowfoot's white galaxy
And love's Forget-me-not:
And where high grasses wave
Shall great Moon-daisies blink,
With Rattle and Sorrel sharp
And Robin's ragged pink.
Thick on the woodland floor
Gay company shall be,
Primrose and Hyacinth
And frail Anemone,
Woodsorrel's pencilled veil,
And Orchis purple and pale,
Bugle, that blushes blue,
And Woodruff's snowy gem,
Proud Fox-glove's finger-bells,
And Spurge with milky stem.
And so for thirteen stanzas more. These are real and enduring names, and many of the wildings gracing them have been acclimatized here. When will the names of our New Zealand wildings be acclimatized in British poetry?
The following lists cannot and do not claim to be complete: the net has been cast widely, but it is certain that many names have not been caught. The lists, will, however, serve as a basis, to which other names may be added from time to time as discovered or created. In many instances the authorities quoted do not adopt the name or use it themselves, but simply quote it as being in common use. The list of scientific names is published with this paper; the list of popular names and the list of authorities will be published in the next volume.
It is unsafe to make any rule; it is almost unsafe to make any suggestion: language has an individuality of its own, a complex individuality that will not brook interference; its users, too, have an individuality that will brook less: but might it be suggested that the common name marked with a star appears to commend itself for general adoption. There is, of course, always room for a good name, always room for a better; and these need not be regarded as fixed stars. When the starred name is enclosed in brackets it is a name that the author has not met in print, but is suggested as appropriate. It seems hardly necessary to suggest any name at all when the plant is so undistinguished as usually to pass unobserved; a scientist needs only the scientific name; to the layman a suggested name would mean no more than the scientific name: when the plant becomes noticeable, through closer association, its name will come with it. It is probable that popular names come largely through children and unlettered people, and are introduced into literature by poets.
A few naturalized plants have been included, some because they have received Maori names, some because they have joined a family well represented in New Zealand. In these cases a dagger † precedes the scientific name. Garden varieties such as Brachyglottis rangiora purpurea (bronze-leaved rangiora), Phormium tenax Williamsii variegata (broad-leaved flax with yellow variegations), have not been included; they might be included could they be identified with Maori varieties, and should be included did they become recognized fixed varieties. A few plants now recognized as hybrids have been marked X.