Sunday, March 15, 2009

Natalis menziesii

"At the present time, students, especially of botany, in the western portion of America are familiar with his name, though few of them have taken the trouble to learn about the man," wrote Edmond Meany in a footnote to Vancouver's Discovery of Puget Sound. The man he was speaking of was the botanist/surgeon Archibald Menzies, born 255 years ago today, whose name is commemorated in that of several North American plants. In the interest of taking at least a little trouble to become acquainted, here is a link to a short biography which touches on the key events of Menzies' life, including his time on the West Coast.
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The pictures are two of the California species which have borrowed Menzies' name. The orange fiddleneck is Amsinckia menziesii (if I am right; there are a couple of close relations around here as well). The baby blue-eyes are Nemophilia menzenzii.
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The linguistic sidenote--it's pronounced "ming-iss". The reason? In times past, that "z" was a "yogh", a yogh of the "y" variety, and when you put "n" and "3" together, it confuses into a bit of an "ng". The Scottish company John Menzies PLC offers a useful poem on the subject:
A lively young damsel named Menzies
Inquired: "Do you know what this thenzies?"
Her aunt, with a gasp,
Replied: "It's a wasp,
And you're holding the end where the stenzies."

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