Happy Valentines Day! On this day, it is a tradition to buy flowers for your sweetie: Pink and red carnations and roses are typical. But did you know these flowers have an interesting etymological background?
Carnations come from the family Caryophyllaceae, commonly known as the “pink family,” named for one of its most common members. However, the botanical pink has nothing to do with the color we know as pink. Instead, the word may share a history with the word “to pick”, referring to the zig-zag edges of the flowers’ petals that look like they have been picked at. This is where we get the name of pinking shears!
More strangely, the first use of “pink” as a color dates back to the 1400’s and referred to a greenish-yellow dye derived from buckthorn. The word may have shared an etymological root with a word for urine. Yuck! It wasn’t until the 1700’s that the word started being applied to the light red color we associate it with today. Before “pink”, the hue was simply called “rose” after… you guessed it… the botanical friend we associate with romance. As the poem begins: “Roses are red…” but it turns out that the archetypal rose was pink.
For this transcription project we bring you a collection of pinks, primroses, and evening primroses. The latter two are not related to actual roses (or even to each other for that matter). The “prim” in primrose means “early” or “first”, referring to their being one of the first flowers to bloom in the springtime. Happy transcribing!