April Showers Bring May Flowers

Image

(photo by Mary Haber)

Everyone has heard the phrase ‘April showers bring May flowers’ and it got me to thinking about how words and phrases are recycled and repeated throughout time.

I don’t mean the dreaded-to-a-writer idea of cliches, but more about how language builds upon itself while constantly evolving. The ‘April showers bring May flowers’ idea comes from the 16th century as referenced by Ken Bolt:

In 1557 a gentleman by the name of Thomas Tusser compiled a collection of writings he called A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry. In the April Husbandry section he wrote:

Sweet April showers
Do spring May flowers.

Or the phrase could come from the first few lines of the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer:

When that April with his showers soote its showers sweet
The drought of March hath piercd to the root

And bathd every vein in such liquor rootlet / liquid
Of which virtúe engendered is the flower.”

Either way, the sentiment has filtered down through time for at least five hundred years, binding not only our languages but our understanding of the world around us.

One of the things I love about being a writer is word etymology–finding our the original derivations and meanings and having that knowledge as I choose the right words for my latest novel. Shades of meaning, nuances, shifted understandings, and cultural colorations all come in to play.

A couple favorite books that deal with the subject are:

The Superior Person’s Book of Words by Peter Bowler

superior-persons-book-of-words

Are you an Anglophile? (Stout fellow!) Just stand at this springboard and leave the fields of popinjay jabber and tongue-stumped battology behind forever! Step up for big dividends in the giddy heights of superior speech. Are you a rasorial searcher after words? Are nouns your bread? Adjectives your butter? Verbs your little salad? Adverbs your house dressing? Well, then, this is the book to shiver you futtocks! Put an end to fopdoodly speech; amaze your friends, baffle your enemies, write interoffice memos to end all discussion! Peter Bowler will teach you the practical riches of saying it well with good words, neglected words, precise words for vocabular exultation. A Superior Person is not defined by income, class, or sex. A Superior Person uses Superior Speech. And, if Aristotle’s definition of art as something both entertaining and edifying is still toasted with glee, then there’s art a-chock-a-block in Mr. Bowler’s dictionary – a funny, useful, and elevating little book.

It’s absolutely hilarious and so fun to use on the unwitting…

Another favorite is A Garden of Words by Martha Barnette:

wordsbook

Did you know that the tulip gets its name from a kind of headwear? What’s the linguistic link between the lovely gladiolus and a fierce gladiator? A rose by any other name may smell as sweet–but why do we call it a rose?

In this charming, witty volume, Martha Barnette leads a tour through the language of the garden, stopping along the way to coax out the many secrets that flowers have to tell about history, culture, psychology, folklore, and science.

It’s an absolutely sumptuous collection of words and their derivations that sheds all new light on the English language. Plus it has flowers…brought to us by those April showers.

So stop and smell the roses (ha!) when it comes to the words we use everyday.

About bellastreet

Living so close to Nashville has provoked Bella to take up fiddle lessons. Until her tunes no longer sound like amorous alley cats, she writes romance with a touch of weird. Visit her at www.bellastreetwrites.blogspot.com
This entry was posted in Bella's Posts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to April Showers Bring May Flowers

  1. Jill James says:

    Bella, love the language of flowers. I love the language of writing, as well. Sometimes cliches are cliches for a reason, they are well-used. And sometimes april showers do bring may flowers.

    Like

  2. leighmorgan1 says:

    Thanks for the references. The etymology of words and “wordsmithing” in general is fun. Wonderful post;I especially enjoyed the bit about tulips :D.

    Like

  3. JoanReeves says:

    My yard has been spectacular this spring. Must be all that rain. Amaryllis, azaleas, yellow iris. I’m surprised the hail storms haven’t killed them all. Lovely post.

    Like

  4. Yes, love the language of flowers! I’m hoping April Showers will bring May Flowers. Cliche or not, still love the saying. :) Wonderful post.

    Like

Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s