Well done Bill Tribe! (Dionaea etymology)

From: Paul Temple (Paultemple@ecologycal.demon.co.uk)
Date: Mon Nov 08 1999 - 14:59:31 PST

Date: Mon, 08 Nov 1999 22:59:31 +0000
From: Paul Temple <Paultemple@ecologycal.demon.co.uk>
To: cp@opus.hpl.hp.com
Message-Id: <aabcdefg3755$foo@default>
Subject: Well done Bill Tribe! (Dionaea etymology)

Aha - so my secret is out!

A few lucky soles knew (because I told them) that my "oh so clever"
lecture was really just some intelligent regurgitation of someone else's
hard work. I never intended anyone should think I did the research on
Dionaea and hope no-one really thought so. For the record, Bill (Tribe)
is absolutely correct and the full reference to the best historical
account of Dionaea's introduction is:

Aphrodite's Mousetrap by E. charles Nelson 1990 Pub. Boethius Press,
Aberystwyth, wales ISBN 0 86314 176 5

Meanwhile, fo those still interested, the plant also goes by the name of
Miraculum Natarae, evidently first uttered by Linnaeus (more famous you
can't get!). However, the first ever letter describing the plant called
it a "Catch Fly sensitive" (1759). Then, order of appearance:
"Sensitive Leaf", this then became the "fly trap sensitive" (1760).
Tippitiwitchet then (1762) seems to assume nore importance for a while,
also spelt as "Tippity Twitchet". This was reputed to be a native
american name for the plant but that is since disputed. The name then
evolves into the "Tip(p)itiwitchet sensitive" and then to
"Tippitiwitched". Venus's Flytrap and venus's Mousetrtap then appear
(in the same letter to the Press, 1768). We then find it as Venus's
fly-trap (i.e. suddenly hyphenated). "Flytrap" appears next (about
1773). Since then there as been Venus's-fly-trap, Venus' fly-trap,
Venus flytrap The Venus Fly Trap and of course, VFT (which at a guess is
an americanism and possibly even arose in the ICPS journal?), and a few
more variations of upper or lower case letters with or without hyphens.

OK, enough of this; by now I guess anyone who previously pondered over
the value of Latin names for plants may now have some understanding of
the benefits! But wait, what have I just found? Jan should know that
there is a reference to a W. Young proposing the generic name Youngsonia
(was he a touch vain?) - for Jan's benefit - ref: W. Young, Catalogue
d'Arbres Arbustes et Plantes Herbacees d'Amerique, 1783 (reprinted 1916:
Botanica Neglecta.)

As to the true source of Tippitiwitchet, it's now possible that the
various authors using this trivial name chose it deliberately, and that
it was really rather rude, not Native American at all, and the current
"Venus's Flytrap" usage was actually a clever way to hide the rude
meaning but make it possible for scholoars to work it out.

And if after all this you're wondering exactly when "Aphrodite's
Mousetrap" was first coined - I haven't got a clue!

Well, I think that's now exhausted that topic. Any more for any more?

Thanks to all those who contacted me on this subject. I'm now newly
addicted to plant name etymology!

Chau all


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Jan 02 2001 - 17:32:07 PST