An English In Kentucky



















November 10th 2009

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    It was I believe Aristotle who began to put order into the naming of things.  The resulting lists encompass life in a manner considered manageable and outside of politics.  Wisely we can know that Fat Hen, Good King Henry, and Beets belong to the same family of plants.   

    Beyond Taxonomy, classification of life begins to spiral toward an understanding that depends for its structures almost entirely upon language.  Names like Fat Hen, Good King Henry, and Beets are shrewdly referred to as 'Common Names'.  

   Once 'Chenopodium Album' is pronounced by tongues accustomed to the English Language it means something.  And how glamorous it is to point at Pigweed, or Lamb's Quarter or Wild Spinach and reference the family Chenapodiaceae.   



   But are Pigweed, Lamb's Quarter, Fat Hen, Good King Henry and Wild Spinach all the same plant.  I suggest that under no stretch of the imagination can they be, and this even if taxonomically they are identical. 

   I say this because while I call it Good King Henry, I do so because in my mind Fat Hen denigrates the plant to a sort of plump contentment that makes me think of social-ness associated with dinner gatherings, white wines and clever conversation.  

   As well there are some, with whom I am on very good terms, who will call it Lamb's Quarter or Goose Foot, or Pigeon Foot, and in my mind I find an overwhelming willingness to correct them.

    Yet, I suppose, it might sometimes be useful to be reminded that I am more closely related to a Hagfish than I am related to a Columbine.

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tim candler

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(Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew)