reticulate iris season

Jim McKenney
Thu, 16 Feb 2012 12:37:42 PST
In calling that iris Vinogradov's iris, I was of course hinting broadly about the "proper" pronunciation of the botanical name. Roger didn't miss a beat and picked right up on that. 

I know many of you find these discussions of pronunciation tiring (and no doubt you have more colorful ways of describing it among yourselves), but for some of us they are both entertaining and informative. If you belong to the "not another discussion about spelling and grammar" group, now is the time to do delete. Although I've saved something for this group at the end. 

I have two quibbles with what Roger wrote. One is minor, one is bigger. What follows is not meant to be a correction of what Roger wrote, but rather is better thought of as an attempt at taking the discussion to a finer level of  granularity of detail. 

Both concern things implied in Roger's otherwise good phonetic spelling of the name, Iris veenogradovee-ee. Roger represented both of the letters i at the end of the name winogradowii by "ee". Actually, they are not the same sound. In the Latinized name the first one is a short i and the final one is a long i. The first one is the short i which is the standard connecting vowel used to form compound words in Latin. The second one is the long i which indicates the singular masculine genitive case. If you are wondering how this could make any conceivable difference, here's the explanation. Those of you who remember the rules for determining the position of the stress know that a long vowel in the next to last syllable in a word gets the stress. Pronouncing both vowels as long vowels would put the stress on the wrong syllable: again, using Roger's phonetic spelling, veenogradoVEEee. But since that vowel is actually short in the Latin version of the word,
 the stress falls back another syllable and we should say veenograDOve-ee. 

I notice that Roger, perhaps in the spirit of discretion being the better part of valor, did not give a phonetic spelling for Iris. So I will: the full name in crude phonetic spelling is EE-ris veenograDOve-ee.

Here's the part I've saved for the scoffers. Two years ago I found myself among a group of people from the plant world, all of them new acquaintances. We were selling plants, each of us at his or her own table. When things got slow, we talked plants. One of the guys overheard me using the Latin pronunciations for plant names and bold as brass announced to the group that I was pretentious. I tried, briefly, to reason with him, but he just got madder and madder. So for those of you who dislike these discussions so much. perhaps you can take some consolation in knowing that I've already gotten a pungent and piquant ear full of the point of view of the scoffers. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.021954º North, 77.052102º West, USDA zone 7
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
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