Friday, May 7, 2010

Words Mean Things

Consider the Common Lilac, Syringa vulgaris. Syringa stands for tube (like a syringe) and refers to a young state of the twigs of the plant and vulgaris just means common. Isn't it funny how something vulgar now is coarse and low, but really means common? Lilacs are exuberant flowers, you can gather them by the armloads from the roadside or abandoned farms. They're not royalty like roses, they don't last long in a vase and I've never seen them in a flower shop. In an old book of mine entitled Rural Wreath, Or Life Among the Flowers it shows that Lilacs mean "The first emotions of love" . And it would be a fitting flower to present to a new love.
Nowadays we don't think much about the meaning of flowers. We give red roses to sweethearts on Valentines Day bound by tradition and the receiver knowing they cost you dearly. But there was a time when there was a secret language of flowers and you could give a bouquet fraught with meaning, delicious to the receiver. Perhaps a bouquet of Flowering Almond (Hope), Jonquil (Is my affection returned?) Snapdragon (Dazzling yet dangerous), and Tulip (Beautiful eyes) . What would such a bouquet say to the receiver? How much more flattering when filled with meaning? A secret passing between two rather than a showy display. A vase overflowing with Common Lilacs, the first emotion of love?

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