Seringa.

Until recently, I did not know there was a word seringa; now I find there are two of them, both, confusingly, referring to plants. OED:

seringa, n.1

Etymology: < French seringa (1600)< post-classical Latin syringa syringa n.

Any of various white- or cream-flowered shrubs of the genus Philadelphus (family Hydrangeaceae); esp. P. coronarius, native to southern Europe and south-west Asia and cultivated in numerous ornamental varieties and hybrids; also called mock orange. Cf. syringa n.

1740 Countess of Hartford in Countess of Hartford & Countess of Pomfret Corr. (1805) I. 221 Arbours interwoven with lilacs, woodbines, seringas, and laurels.
[…]
2003 W. Taylor et al. Waterberg iv. 87 At sunset the beautifully conformed shapes of seringas make perfect silhouettes.

seringa, n.2

Etymology: Probably < Brazilian Portuguese seringa India rubber (1774 or earlier; the Portuguese word is apparently not attested denoting the rubber plant), apparently an extended use of Portuguese seringa syringe n., apparently so called because syringes were frequently made from natural rubber.
Compare slightly later seringue n.

Any of several South American trees of the genus Hevea (family Euphorbiaceae) which yield latex from which natural rubber is made; esp. the para rubber tree, H. brasiliensis, of the Amazon basin. Also: this rubber itself. Frequently attributive, esp. in seringa rubber, seringa tree.

1847 W. H. Edwards Voy. River Amazon x. 116 Here were numbers of seringa trees, and we passed many habitations of the gum collectors.
[…]
2005 D. S. Hammond in D. S. Hammond Trop. Forests Guiana Shield viii. 422/2 By 1920, more than 60,0000 [sic] people were engaged in the extraction of timber, gold, bauxite, diamonds, balata, seringa rubber and other minor forest products.

Then there’s syringa, mentioned in the first entry and synonymous with it, and seringue, mentioned in the second entry and synonymous with it. Not to mention syringe — but at least that’s not a plant.

Comments

  1. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen episodes of PBS detective shows where the syringe was a plant.

  2. The Gem State Flower

  3. Trond Engen says:

    More confusion:

    Syringa vulgaris (lilac or common lilac) is a species of flowering plant in the olive family Oleaceae, native to the Balkan Peninsula, where it grows on rocky hills. Grown for its scented pink flowers in spring, this large shrub or small tree is widely cultivated and has been naturalized in parts of Europe and North America. It is not regarded as an aggressive species, found in the wild in widely scattered sites, usually in the vicinity of past or present human habitations.

    (Wikipedia)

  4. I know I’ve seen “syringa” in fantasy writing. It sounds like something Clark Ashton Smith would use, and I indeed found this poem at The Eldritch Dark.

    On the Canyon-Side

    Forgotten lies the world we knew,
    One mile behind the looming hill;
    And here, beside a laurel-darkened rill,
    Slow-wandering, we have found
    A fern-lost boulder large enough for two
    That sit with arms enwound.

    Upon your pale, delicious throat
    Like a torn lace the shadows stir;
    While, with a sharpened longing, I defer
    The kiss that fain would fall;
    And softly touch your yielded wrist, and note
    How loud your pulses call.

    Syringa-blossoms, frail and old,
    Swept by the swiftly dying air,
    Fall like a fragrant snow, and in your hair
    Two poising petals rest;
    And a great moth with wings of mottled gold
    Pauses before your breast.

    Now, while the world is far and dim,
    Now, while the afternoon is new,
    Reveal, I pray, the rapture that is you:
    Hoard not the least caress,
    Nor the last whiteness of the breast and limb,
    From love made fetterless.

    However, I had not actually read that poem before, and Smith does not appear to have used the word in his prose. So I must have been thinking of a different author.

    I also thought of E. R. Eddison, but no version of the word appears in The Worm Ouroboros—although I noticed recently that Eddison uses the word sithence, another obsolete variant of sithen (cognate to modern since). Indeed The Worm Ouroboros is the only twentieth century attestation the OED has for any of the sithen, sithens, sithence forms.

  5. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    When someone feels the need to tell me that a plant is not agressive, I don’t feel particularly reassured!

  6. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen episodes of PBS detective shows where the syringe was a plant.

    Ha!

    I discover that I posted about John Ashbery’s poem “Syringa” back in 2009. AJP Crow said then: “Syringa is what they call lilac in Norway. I’m not sure if they spell it the same way, though.”

  7. Trond Engen says:

    Syrin (final stress, the French borrowing or demi-latinate-Swedish-surname way) is what we call lilac in Norway. The Swedes say syren with the same stress.

  8. John Cowan says:

    Agressive, that is, toward other plants, not in the Little Shop of Horrors style.

  9. David Eddyshaw says:

    When someone feels the need to tell me that a plant is not aggressive, I don’t feel particularly reassured!

    So true:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqrLqg3w6AU

  10. Lars Mathiesen says:

    The seringa does not look much like the lilac (Syringa), which is Da/Sw syren and D Syringe (formerly, now gemeiner Flieder).

    TIL that lilacs (and seringas) have ‘hollow’ (soft pithed) branches that can be easily adapted as pan pipes (whence the Latin name, < Gr σῦριγξ); in Denmark the elder is traditional for that. (Being native, of course, while the others were only imported from the Balkans three or four hundred years ago).

    The seringa, the elder and the lilac are not closely related, only at the level of the (lower case) asperids which is a monophyletic clade but not formally ranked, unlike the obsolete subclass Asperidae. The seringa belongs to the basal Cornales, the two others are euasperids.

    The hollow branch thing seems to have confused the Swedes, however: elder = D Holunder = Da hyld = Sw fläder, while lilac = D Flieder = Da/Sw syrén. Or maybe MLG vleder was used for both species.

    And then seringa = Da pibeved (not the Tolkien sense, pibe has most senses of E pipe and ved means ‘wood’ not ‘weed’) = Sw skärsmin/schersmin alteration of jasmin (= jasmine which is a sister genus to the lilacs).

    This uses up today’s parenthesis quota.

  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqrLqg3w6AU

    Boy, special effects have come a long way since 1962. This bit of dialogue feels eerily relevant, though:

    “I think we oughtta get out of here and go on to Spain.”
    “How can you know it’s any better there?”
    “I don’t.”

  12. German Flieder can refer both to syringa and as Schwarzer Flieder to Sambucus nigra; WiPe says the latter usage is Northern German.

  13. Lars Mathiesen says:

    I only encountered Holunder so far, but Dutch points to ‘elder’ as the original sense of *flioþra-. I maligned the Swedes, it seems, the Germans were the confused ones.

    Hellquist sees the same *-þra- in Flieder and Holunder, the first part of the latter cognate to hollow. I don’t know if *flioþra- has relatives outside Germanic.

    And now I want some elderberry cordial but the bottle is empty.

  14. David Marjanović says:

    a monophyletic clade

    All clades are monophyletic – by definition.

    Or maybe MLG vleder was used for both species.

    Yes (assuming lilac was even known by then), and that continued into NHG for long enough to cause some confusion in literature. Note that weißer Flieder is still not specific, because there is white lilac.

  15. AJP Crown says:

    Syrin is what we call lilac in Norway
    Maybe you do but syringa is what I call lilac in Norway (in England I can say either syringa or lilac, or both, or I can alternate). I’ve got four, both lilac and creamy-white. Buddleia (also spelt buddleja) is nicer in some ways, butterflies for example love it. Buddleia’s dead common, so stick with lilac if you worry what your neighbours think.* There’s a big jasmine (sjasmin) next to them that I like better for both the smell and the flower. I find plant names hard enough to remember at the best of times. Many things have several English common names, a Norwegian name and a Linnæus-type name – it’s like practising medicine in our garden. Practice, practice, practice.

    *I’ve noticed that it is indeed found more in the formerly working-class areas of London, like the East End.

  16. Syrinslekta (Syringa) hører til oljetrefamilien.

    Syrin (Syringa vulgaris), også kalt vanlig syrin, er en art i syrinslekta.

  17. Lars Mathiesen says:

    All clades are monophyletic – by definition. Yes, I need to remind myself once in a while. But I distracted you from the real mistake: it’s asterids/Asteridae of course, not asperids/Asperidae.

  18. David Eddyshaw says:

    Until recently, I did not know there was a word seringa; now I find there are two of them

    You wait ages for a seringa to come along, and then two come along at once.

  19. AJP Crown says:

    Any of various white- or cream-flowered shrubs of the genus Philadelphus (family Hydrangeaceae); esp. P. coronarius, native to southern Europe and south-west Asia and cultivated in numerous ornamental varieties and hybrids; also called mock orange. Cf. syringa n.

    1740 Countess of Hartford in Countess of Hartford & Countess of Pomfret Corr. (1805) I. 221 Arbours interwoven with lilacs, woodbines, seringas, and laurels.

    I said our syringa has a jasmine next to it, which is what it’s called in Norwegian according to Dyv., and I couldn’t think of what I usually call it, but it’s philadelphus of course (my mother calls it mock orange). How very interesting to know they have a history together. I bet the planter knew; our house was originally part of the Norwegian national agricultural college, built in 1923 and its garden laid out as an experiment in ideal smallholdings – we’ve kind of returned it to that, although no pig.

  20. AJP Crown says:
  21. ‘hollow’ (soft pithed) branches that can be easily adapted as pan pipes

    Hence the Russian name чубушник for Philadelphus. BTW, it’s about to bloom in a few days outside my windows. The derivation is ultimately from Turkic:

    чубук

  22. Trond Engen says:

    Philadelphus is skjærsmin in Norwegian too (also falsk sjasmin, according to WP). We have one in our garden (or so I’m told).

  23. çubuk

    Etymology
    From Ottoman Turkish چبوق‎ (çibuk, çıbuk, çubuk), from Old Turkic çıpık‎ (çıpık), from Proto-Turkic *čɨ̄p (“branch”).

    çubuk (definite accusative çubuğu, plural çubuklar)

    stick (twig or small branch)

  24. AJP Crown says:

    Oh, it’s skjærsmin she’s calling it. Not sjasmin. Of course. Do take a whiff when it comes into bloom in June, Trond.

  25. Lars Mathiesen says:

    that can be easily adapted — this makes me uneasy somehow, is there a proscription against adverbs between infinite be and the passive participle? I mean, that is easily adapted does not trigger the same reaction, but now I want to go back in time and put that can easily be adapted or that can be adapted easily.

  26. David Eddyshaw says:

    I think I’d have said “can easily be adapted” too, but “can be easily adapted” causes me no linguistic discomfort at all.

  27. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Aliens don’t count.

  28. PlasticPaddy says:

    @lars
    For me the question is hard. “Mistakes are easily made” sounds better than “mistakes are made easily”; the second sounds somehow like a “Boy’s Own” style exhortation to make more mistakes 😊

  29. David Eddyshaw says:

    Aliens don’t count.

    Moriarty:
    Olé! [Garbled French]

    Seagoon:
    I gave him a guarded… oui!

    Moriarty:
    So, the señor is a foreigner!

    Seagoon:
    I beg your pardon!? I’m British!

    Moriarty:
    I know, but this is Madrid.

    Seagoon:
    Ha ha ha! A natural mistake, there are so many foreigners here that you took mistook me for one.

    Moriarty:
    Olé!

    Seagoon:
    Olé!

  30. Lars Mathiesen says:

    @PP, I’m most worried about mistakes can be easily made versus mistakes can easily be made. I think the question is whether easily attaches to can or to make — in your version without the modal, there is no question to be asked. (And pragmatically, mistakes can be easily made sounds like making mistakes is a good thing, like making pan pipes for instance, so it may be selected against).

  31. AJP Crown says:

    Don’t count or can’t count?

  32. David Eddyshaw says:

    Won’t count!
    (Can’t make me!)

  33. David Eddyshaw says:

    What’s with this stupid obsession you all have with base ten, anyway?
    Isn’t base fourteen obviously more natural?

  34. that can be easily adapted

    Sounds perfectly kosher to me. If you go around logically analyzing phrases and clauses, most natural language will fall by the wayside and we’ll all be speaking Fortran.

  35. AJP Crown says:

    It’s the other end of the country, but…

    Gang of Markhor goats rules deserted streets of Llandudno, David Eddyshaw.

  36. David Eddyshaw says:

    Looks pretty normal for Llandudno. A bit unusual to see goats rather than sheep, admittedly. However, I think the culture of Markhor goats is enriching, and no threat to our traditional way of life at all. There is no place for aegophobia in Wales.

  37. January First-of-May says:

    Syrin (final stress, the French borrowing or demi-latinate-Swedish-surname way) is what we call lilac in Norway. The Swedes say syren with the same stress.

    …Oh, so that‘s where the Russian word for lilac (сирень) comes from! I would never have guessed… it doesn’t sound at all like a borrowing.
    (Actually “dialectal German”, says Russian Wiktionary.)

    No relation to “siren”, apparently (despite the musical connection).

  38. Second that. Russian сирень sounds so native to my ear, it’s hard to imagine that it’s cognate with syringe, via French or German
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dF0050WTg10
    It’s common in out North European immigration belt, and there is a story that miscarried fetuses needed burial under lilacs, but I never corroborated that.

  39. AJP Crown says:

    Lovely animals. They’re the symbol of Pakistan but I kind of think of them as Welsh.

  40. Oh, so that‘s where the Russian word for lilac (сирень) comes from!

    Specifically it’s from a Low German Sirene.

  41. I’m sure they’re lovely animals but once they call in their friends the pretty hedges of Llandudno will be reduced to tatters.

    See also: Goats at the Congressional Cemetery

  42. AJP Crown says:

    Rubbish. We had goats for years. They do like hedges and fruit trees, but who doesn’t? They’re very good at clearing undergrowth.

  43. Trond Engen says:

    I’ve been in Llandudno. We first went to the Great Orme copper mines in the hill at the far end of the street. Then we went to the pier. I’m pretty sure it was a giant seagull and not a goat that stole my son’s ice cream* out of the cone in his hand.

    *) The locals might know the day and year by this product description.

  44. David Eddyshaw says:

    I’m pretty sure it was a giant seagull and not a goat

    It can be difficult to tell, at least for a layman. Llandudno is well known for its flying goats.

  45. for what it’s worth, “sering” is “frequently” or “often” in Bahasa, so it’s a word I used to see rather frequently or often when I lived in Malaysia.

  46. it’s about to bloom in a few days outside my windows.

    No flowers this year. A cold snap with a light snowfall has put paid to it.

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