The Church Year

What’s in a Name? Only Everything {an Advent Post}

P_20181110_073001

There can be no manner of doubt a name is more easily remembered when its meaning is understood.  –A.J. Macself, from the Foreword, “Plant Names Simplified”

I forgot to plant my amaryllis bulb the week of All Hallow’s Eve. I wrote about the practice in my Christmas season book, how planting a crinkly, brown bulb with antenna-like roots can be a lesson in patience and waiting during the Advent and Christmas season. But I was too busy to remember. Goodness.

So, I potted the inglorious bulb the other day after soaking the accompanying ground-up coconut shreds in warm water, watching them miraculously expand and nearly overtake my 32-ounce glass measuring cup. Amaryllis duly snugged into plastic container, I pondered something while I cleaned up the mess in my sink.

What does ‘amaryllis’ mean, anyway?

I’m fond of learning the Latin for plant names, shrubs and trees. As an amateur gardener, I pride myself on the pronunciation and meaning of the various denizens of my yard and garden. And some of the names are not Latin at all, but simply named for people or a place.

Amaryllis. Well. I went to the bookshelf and took down my slim green volume of “Plant Names Simplified–Their Meanings and Pronunciation,” (A.T. Johnson, 1931, W.H. & L Collingridge, U.K.) No matter the book is missing pages 51-82, duly noted on the inside cover by me in July 2012. (It’s a very old book and was gifted to me when a friend found it at an antique store.) I needed only go to the beginning of this plant dictionary; I knew the A entries would all be there.

IMG_20191205_110417

Of the two names given to each plant, the first, which may be likened to our surname (or first name) is the generic, or group name. This can occur only once, as a group name, but the second, the specific (or species) name is only given to one plant of the same genus, as is a Christian name in a family, and may occur in many different genera. (From the Introduction).

The elegant amaryllis, I discovered, has only one name and is neither Greek nor Latin, but a “classical name after that of a shepherdess in Theocritus and Virgil, Greek and Latin poets.” I was pleased to find this entry as I’m an aspiring poet and also was taken by the fact that it is after a shepherdess. The final bloom of an amaryllis can nearly be equated with the crook of a shepherd’s staff, I suppose. And, there is the occasion of planting an amaryllis, during that season that precedes the birth of Jesus, our Shepherd.

I think about the name Christian, which “occurs in many different genera.” ‘Genera’ is of course the root word of generate and generations.

The generations of Jesus have continued for hundreds of years. and beginning with the first root of our family, that stump of Jesse-Jesus, will continue to grow. I am forever grateful to claim Jesus’ name as my own, and identify with the Christ, my Saviour.

The name above every other name.

The Light that is coming in the dark days of Winter.

Emmanuel–God with us.

P_20180924_072832

 

 

 

Sharing is caring!

4 Comments

  • Laurie

    Dear etymology sleuth, I enjoyed your off-road travels through the terrain of language in the name of The Name. I liked learning about the shepherdess and liked even more noticing just now that the word Mary nests within Amaryllis. 🙂

    I shall happily bear your insights in mind while watering the 5 bulbs in-progress on my window sill.

    • Jody Lee Collins

      Oh, my friend. Thank you for showing ME that “the word Mary nests within Amaryllis.” I can’t think of a better reason to watch for its blooms at Christmastime.
      And 5? Wow, that’s going to be quite a display!

  • Nancy Ruegg

    Well, how about that: amaryllis are named after a shepherdess! Appreciated your observations about the stem resembling a shepherd’s crook and the timing of the blooms coinciding with our celebration of the Shepherd’s birth. Interesting that they look similar to the white lilies we associate with Easter–only these December blooms are red, of course. That brings another question to mind: why are red and green the colors of Christmas? Something else to research, Jody!

  • Denise Armstrong

    I enjoyed this Jody. Plant-play and word-play, two of my own favorite pastimes.😄 Your photography enhanced the piece well. Advent blessings! Denise

Leave a Reply to Laurie Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: