Friday, March 26, 2010

Apple #447: Jodhpurs

A jaguar wearing jodhpurs in the jungle may attack the jugular.

(Yet another entry brought to you by the letter J.)

  • Jodhpurs are a particular type of pants designed for riding horses.
  • The word is pronounced JOD-purz.  Basically, ignore the h.
  • The name comes from a city in India called Jodhpur.  British colonialists in India began calling the pants by the name of the place where pants of that style were often worn.
  • Back then, jodhpurs were made of thick, durable material which flared very wide at the hips and then tapered to a snug fit at the knees all the way down to the ankle.  The flared hips allowed for lots of freedom of movement while riding, and the snugness at the calves allowed the pants to fit easily into knee-high riding boots.

Jodhpurs worn by the British 23rd Calvary Polo Team in 1908.  No reinforced sections by the knees are visible, but the flared thighs and tapered knees definitely are.
(Photo from Wallflower Dispatches)

Edward VIII, who would become Duke of Windsor, wearing a Scotch Highlander uniform, which included jodhpurs, during a visit to Canada in 1936. He doesn't look very happy about it.
(Photo from Wallflower Dispatches)

By the 1920s a lot of women wore jodhpurs, too. This woman is wearing them at Tattersall's horse auction rooms in London.  Though judging by the hats, this might be more like the 1930s.
(Photo from Wallflower Dispatches)

Jodhpurs were also a hit among the fashionable and the movie stars.  Here, Gary Cooper is sporting a pair.
(Photo from Wallflower Dispatches)

Though jodhpurs were a hit with British aristocracy -- who could afford horses --and movie stars, regular people liked wearing them too.  These women in Washington, D.C. seem to be enjoying their jodhpurs, and there's nary a horse in sight.  This is from 1922.
(Photo from Wallflower Dispatches)

  • At some point in time -- I'm not sure if these elements came later or if they were part of the originals -- jodhpurs acquired other features as well. 
  • They got even thicker material across the seat, which would take a lot of wear during extensive riding, and at the knees, where a rider would grip the horse and saddle.
  • They were also usually sewn so that the seams were on the outside of the pants, rather than on the inside, and the seams were curved so as to miss points that would contact with the saddle.  This is so that during all the riding and jumping, the seams would not rub against the rider's skin.
  • Jodhpurs still appeal to a range of people -- those who want them for actual horse riding, and those who want them because they like them.
  • Now, though, lots of riding jodhpurs, particularly those that are made for women, are made to be snug the whole way up the leg.

Current women's  jodhpurs with that extra reinforcement across the seat. On the sites I saw, jodhpurs that included this extra material were usually referred to as "breeches."
(These breeches are available from Derby House for £50.)

On these jodhpurs, you can see the extra reinforcement at the knees.
(Available from Clarke McKenzie in New Zealand for NZD$115)

  • Pants worn by race jockeys today, though, still have that extra material at the thighs.  I had thought that their pants were skin-tight all the way up, but no, photo after photo of horse races proved me wrong.

As you can see in this remarkably clear photo of Calvin Borel riding 2009 Derby race-winner Mine That Bird, professional jockeys' pants are not skin-tight but are loose enough at the thighs, like traditional jodhpurs, to allow freedom of movement.
(AP Photo from

Not only do professional racing jockeys' jodhpurs still have the extra material at the thighs, they also have the reinforcement in the seat -- and their names embroidered on the waistband.
(Photo from Flickr, linked to without attribution by

  • Jodhpurs worn for purposes of fashion tend to be less snug than women's riding breeches and they usually have that extra flare along the hips.

One of the pairs of jodhpurs featured in Balenciaga's Fall 2007 collection.
(Photo from Fabsugar)

These are called tuxedo jodhpurs and they're made by fashion designer Robert Rodriguez.
(Photo from Blogue US)

  • Some people, though, aren't in love with the return of jodhpurs on the fashion scene.  They call them modified Hammers.

Can't touch these jodhpurs?
(Photo from Westsidewill)

  • Of course I couldn't talk about jodhpurs without mentioning this famous photo of the original Charlie's Angels:

Nearly every show included a note in the credits that the angels' clothes were provided by Givenchy Sport.  So I'm guessing that's who made Kate Jackson's jodhpurs.
(Photo from Pretty Boring)

What's your vote?  Jodhpurs, thumbs up or down?

Wise Geek, What are Jodhpurs?
Online Etymology Dictionary, jodhpurs
Fabsugar, Definition: jodhpurs

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Apple #446: Jugular

A jaguar in the jungle may attack the jugular.

  • There are actually 4 jugular veins. They carry blood from the head, brain, face, and neck down to the heart.
  • The word, by the way, comes from the Latin word jugul, which means throat.  That word itself comes from another Latin word jugum, which means yoke.  Thinking of the jugulars as veins that descend along and yoke your throat is a pretty good way to describe them.
  • They are named posterior and anterior, meaning that one is toward the back of your head (posterior) and the other is closer to the front (anterior).
  • They are also called external and internal.  That's supposed to indicate that the blood they collect comes from places closer to the external part of the head (skin of the face or neck, for example). But of course it doesn't all get divided up so neatly as the names might suggest.
  • It's easiest to describe them with a diagram.

This diagram shows all the veins in the head and neck.  I've labeled four -- the jugular veins.
(Diagram from Gray's Anatomy with my labels added)

  • The posterior external jugular collects blood from the back part of the skull and neck.  It's pretty small.  It comes down the back of the neck and connects with another jugular about mid-way down the neck.
  • The external jugular is what the posterior external jugular connects up with.  It's larger than the posterior external jugular, and it collects blood from deep under the face and comes down the side of the neck.
  • The anterior jugular descends below the jaw and comes down into the neck near the voice box.  In this diagram, the anterior jugular is pretty small, but it varies widely in size from person to person. Also, some people have two of these, a right and a left, while other people may have only one.
  • The internal jugular is the biggest and fattest of the four.  It also sits the deepest in the neck.  When people say "the jugular" this is usually the one they mean.  This collects blood from the brain and the outer parts of the face and from the neck.  It runs alongside the carotid artery, which is where you can feel the pulse in your neck.  Everyone has two of these, a left one and a right one.  The left one is usually smaller than the right.
  • The larger, right internal jugular usually measures around 1.4 centimeters (the left is around 1.2 cm).  1.4 cm is about the width of my index finger.  I'm looking at my index finger and imagining that to be a vein full of blood.  That's my internal jugular vein.
  • You would think that veins with this much essential fluid in them would be well-protected.  But relatively speaking, they are not.  Even the internal jugular is quite close to the surface, and it isn't hidden under lots of muscle or under bone.  So it is pretty vulnerable.
  • If it does get damaged (bitten into by a jaguar, torn open, shot, etc.), you can suffer lots of blood loss really fast, go into shock, and die.  This is a pretty accurate description, by the way, of what happens at the end of  Don't Look Now, which I coincidentally watched last night.
  • This is also why the phrase "going for the jugular" means that someone is being particularly vicious, intending to kill, so to speak.
  • You can't feel the pulse in the jugular.  The pulse you can feel most of the time at the base of your neck is the carotid artery.  But someone else can see your pulse in the jugular if you stand at an angle to the observer and turn your head about 45 degrees.

This man's jugular is visible, as indicated by the arrow.  This is usually an indicator of hypertension and some level of heart failure on the right side of the heart.  You do not want to be able to see this.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

    • A doctor or a nurse may ask you to tilt or move your head in order to see your jugular.  The jugular will move as you move, while the carotid artery does not.  
    • They may do these and other tests to check the blood pressure in the jugular.  If they're doing this, chances are they're trying to get a sense of whether or not there's some sort of cardiovascular problem going on, something that could affect the atrium of the heart or the blood pressure in your veins.
    • If a person is experiencing congestive heart failure (a heart attack, basically), the pressure in the atrium will push back up the jugular, and you'll be able to see the jugular vein standing out and the pulse visible in it.  Really, this is not something you want to see because if you can, it means bad things are happening.
    • Sometimes medical professionals will put a catheter into the internal jugular vein. ER doctors might have to do this, or doctors in an ICU. They might need to use this vein because the patient's arms are too swollen or damaged or are otherwise problematic to introduce necessary fluids. So they'll have to use the internal jugular.  But they have to be really really careful about inserting the needle with the tube attached because if they miss the jugular, they can hit the carotid artery and then they'll really have a gusher. Or they could puncture the vagus nerve and, boop, everything will go haywire in the patient's head and neck.  Comforting, isn't it?

    The moral of the story: don't mess around with the jugular.  The end.

      Sources, jugular, Definition of jugular vein
      Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body, The Veins of the Neck
      Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias, Internal Jugular Vein
      R.K. Batra, Unusual Complication of Internal Jugular Vein Cannulation, Indian J Chest Dis Allied Sci, 2002: 44: 137-139. 
      Khatri, Vijay P. et al., "The Internal Jugular Vein Maintains its Regional Anatomy and Patency After Carotid Endarterectomy: A Prospective Study," Annals of Surgery, 2001 Feb; 233(2): 282-286.

      Monday, March 15, 2010

      Apple #445: Jungle

      This is the second in a series of entries about words that start with the letter J.

      One of the places jaguars live is in the jungle.

      (Photo from Amazon Jungle)

      • A jungle is defined as a tropical forest so thick with vegetation as to be impenetrable.
      • It comes from Hindi and Urdu words jangal which mean forest.  Those both come from the Sanskrit (one of the oldest languages ever and the ultimate source for most Western words) jangala which, surprisingly, means "desert region."
      • So somehow, in going from Sanskrit to Hindi & Urdu, the word changed from desert to forest. But it has stayed in the forest.
      • "Jungle" can also mean a place characterized by intense competition for survival.  Notably, the city, or the business world.  It's a jungle out there!
      • That's another transition, from a forest to a city.  I wonder if one day, "city" will be the primary meaning for "jungle."
      • "Jungle" can also mean a hobo's camp.  As far as I can tell -- I'm going to verify this -- this meaning was first used around the late 1800s.
      • It describes a camp where lots of railroad lines come together and where lots of guys who ride the trains have also converged.  Usually there's a stream or some water nearby, and maybe something else about the landscape that makes it a good place to camp out.  Hobo jungles that are more permanent might even have pots and spoons and equipment that are left behind for the next guys to use, clean up, and leave behind for others who will surely come along later.

      Guys hanging out in a hobo jungle, around 1895.
      (Photo from Sarah White's site In Search of the American Hobo)

      Modern-day hobo jungle at the Rochelle Train Park in Rochelle, Illinois.
      (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

      • The word also seems to be related to the word jumble, in that it can mean a disordered mass of objects, or something that is so complex and confusing, it is baffling.
      • Finally, it's also a type of fast-paced dance music that is a mixture of techno, reggae, and hip-hop.

      There's more to come on this topic, I promise.  I've been playing with the template of this blog -- no luck yet, but that soaked up a huge chunk of time.  I have to stop for now so I can get some sleep!

      OneLook, jungle
      Sarah White, University of Virginia, In Search of the American Hobo

      Saturday, March 13, 2010


      Don't forget to set your clocks ahead one hour tonight.

      Daylight Saving Time

      Friday, March 12, 2010

      Apple #444: Jaguars

      This is the first entry in a series on words that begin with the letter J.


      Jaguar -- Panthera onca
      (Photo from the Discovery Channel)

      • Some jaguars live in the United States.  I am completely surprised to learn this.  I had thought they lived in Africa or someplace exotic.
      • In the U.S., they live in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. 
      • However, they are endangered and extremely rare, so you don't typically see them wandering around the streets of Flagstaff.
      • Outside the U.S. they live in Mexico as far south as Patagonia. Mainly they live in the northern part of South America, especially around the Amazon River basin. 

      Places where jaguars live are shown in yellow.
      (Distribution map from National Geographic)

      • They like a lot of different environments, including forests, jungles, grasslands, and mountainous regions with scrubby bushes.
      • They like to eat a lot of things:
      1. deer
      2. monkeys
      3. crocodiles
      4. horses
      5. cattle
      6. snakes
      7. sloths
      8. tapirs
      9. capybaras
      10. peccaries (a.k.a. javelinas)
      11. ground-dwelling birds
      12. turtles
      13. eggs
      14. frogs
      15. fish
      • They like water.  They'll bathe in rivers and pools, playing around.  They also hunt fish in the water.  Slashola!

      Jaguar catching fish.
      (Photo from

      • They also like to climb trees.
      • They generally live and hunt individually.  They do come out during the daytime, but really they prefer dawn and dusk.  Which makes them another crepuscular animal.  Thanks for that word, Meghan!
      • Often they kill their prey by crushing the skull with one bite of their powerful jaws.
      • The word "jaguar" comes from a Native American word yaguar which means "he who kills with one leap."
      • The jaguar is the third largest species of cat after the lion and the tiger.
      • Jaguar spots are considered distinctive and are generally described as being "rosette"-shaped.

      Here you can clearly see the rosette shape -- almost circles with a dot in the middle.  Not every jaguar's spots form such an obvious pattern as this, but they do all generally make that circular shape, especially on the cat's flank.
      (Photo from Big Cat Rescue)

      This jaguar's fur is nearly black, though you can still make out a few spots.
      (Photo from Big Cat Rescue)

      • Sometimes their spots are so close together their fur is almost black.
      • Unlike the big cats, jaguars don't roar.  They make a kind of chesty cough.  
      • I suspect this is the prusten, which you may have encountered in The Life of Pi, or the book on which its plot was shamelessly based, Max and the Cats.  In that book, the big cat in the boat is a jaguar, not a tiger, and how it came to be there is more plausible than the explanation in The Life of Pi.
      • There are many stories of jaguars stalking people for miles through the forest.  Researchers think that the cats are actually "escorting" the people out of their territory.
      • The Maya believed that the jaguar was the sun's bodyguard, escorting it as it traveled under the earth at night and ensuring it would rise safely the next morning.

      Defenders of Wildlife, Jaguar (Panthera onca)
      National Geographic, Jaguar (Panthera onca)
      Indian Tiger, Jaguar
      Big Cat Rescue, Jaguar

      Monday, March 8, 2010

      Apple #443: The Letter J

      I happen to have an interest in the letter J.  Plus, the other day, I got to thinking about it.  It's pretty unusual, how in some languages it's pronounced like a Y, or how it sometimes acts like an I.  That seems unusual for a consonant to act like a vowel sometimes. Well, the letter Y does that, but then, Y and J seem to be distant cousins or something.

      Good old J.
      (Image from Like a Warm Cup of Coffee)

      Anyway, I've been ruminating on the letter, so I'll tell you some of the things I found out about it.  Then I think I might do a series of entries about things that begin with the letter J.

      • In Latin, which is the mother of many Romance languages and many words in the English language, J didn't used to exist. Instead of J, they used I.  And they pronounced it like a Y.
      • When my brother was taking Latin in high school, he came home one day and informed us all that Julius Caesar did not pronounce his name the way we do, as Joolius Seeser.  Instead, he said, it was pronounced Yoolius Kiyser.  He went around saying "Yoolius Kiyser," "Yoolius Kiyser" for days afterward so I have never forgotten this fact.
      • When I got to the age where I took Latin myself, I discovered that the names of Juno and Jupiter (a.k.a. Hera and Zeus in Greek), were written as Iuno and Iupiter.  Which looked all kinds of strange to me and thus I never forgot that, either.
      • A lot of things changed about Latin when it hit the medieval years and the influence of the Catholic church.  But it still didn't grow a J, so to speak.
      • It wasn't until the 15th century or so that the J started showing up. As one person interested in languages noted, the j is a Johnny-come-lately.

      (Drawn by Dylan Byrd at Byrd Drawings)

      • What I find interesting is not only that different languages started using the letter j rather late in the game, but also that not everybody used it the same way.  Here are some of the ways the letter j is pronounced in various languages:
      • German: j = y (e.g., jaeger meaning hunter)
      • Dutch: j by itself = y (jaar meaning year); ij together  = long i (e.g., ijsvrij meaning snow day);
      • Finnish: j = y (e.g., jäätelö meaning ice cream); ij together = long i or not pronounced (lukija meaning reader)
      • French: j = soft g (jour meaning day). The French refer to the j as "i-grec" or "the Greek i."
      • Portuguese: j = zsh (jogar meaning to play)
      • Spanish: j = h (jalapeños meaning hot peppers) 
      • English: j = dzh (jingle). This sound is really difficult to represent, by the way. A lot of non-native English speakers have trouble learning how to pronounce it. The official linguistic representation of the sound is this: dʒ. But if you don't know what that ʒ means, you have no idea how to make that sound.  So I've chosen to describe it as dzh.  

      In American Sign Language, the j is one of the few letters you draw in the air.
      (Photo from How You Build It)

        • Italian: still doesn't have a j. The soft g sound is made with gi (e.g., giungla meaning jungle).  But then, Italian doesn't really have an h, either.  My Italian teacher told us that there's a saying in Italian, "not worth an h," which is a way of disparaging something.
        • Japanese: j = dzh as in English; sometimes j = zsh (jigen meaning dimension or in anime slang, a tunnel which leads to another dimension)
        •  OK, I don't know when the Japanese started using their j, but I wanted to throw that one in there because their whole country starts with the letter J.

        The letter J:  fleeting and changeable as letters written in sand? (Your Apple Lady can get melodramatic about the alphabet)
        (Photo from Cook-n-Knit)

        All right, all right, Jason [see comments].  I'll try to answer how all this differentiation came about.

        The short answer is that the change is the same as any change that happen in a language or alphabet, which is that people started doing it another way and it stuck.  You may remember this from the entry about dollar signs, for example.  Exactly why these changes happen is very difficult, if not impossible, to answer. So really the best answer I can give you is a description of the process where we can see that change occurring.

        There are very few sources -- reputable or otherwise -- online that discuss this process.  So I'm going to rely, once again, on my ever-trusty copy of the OED to address this thorny progression.  (I can't recommend this text enough, by the way.  It is an endless source of edification and enjoyment to me.)

        The micrographically-reproduced two-volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary: this girl's best friend. I got it for $30 from the Book of the Month club many years ago.  You can also subscribe to the more updated online version at

        The OED's discussion of the letter J at the beginning of its J entries runs almost 3 columns in very very tiny print.  I will do my best to summarize while maintaining clarity and accuracy.
        • The development of the letter j as we know it is two-fold: what happened to its pronunciation, and what happened to the way it was written or printed.
        • The two aspects -- how it is pronounced and how it is written -- naturally influenced each other. For clarity's sake, I will take them in turn.

        • In the oldest, perhaps original form of Latin, in words where the i preceded a vowel (iactus, iam, maior, peior), the pronunciation of that diphthong (two vowels together) came to sound like a y.
        • Some time before the 6th century -- here I must quote from the OED:
        this y-sound had, by compression in articulation and consequent development of an initial 'stop', become a consonantal diphthong, passing through a sound (dy), akin to that of our di, de, in odious, hideous, to that represented in our phonetic symbolization by (). 
        • To paraphrase, people started to change the way they made that y-sound in words like iactus and maior.  In the same way that we sometimes sort of jam the letters de and di together in hideous and odious, people started jamming those vowels together. The sound changed so that instead of being an all-vowel breathy sound, people started to involve the tongue -- the stop -- in making the sound.  Exactly why this happened the OED doesn't say, only that it did.
        • Meanwhile, things were changing for the letter g, too.  Originally it was only pronounced as a hard g, as in words like guess or girl.  But in words where the g was followed by some vowel sounds, the hard g sound changed and softened, and, over the course of centuries, came to sound more like the dʒ (j) sound.
        • The soft g was especially popular in places where people spoke what is now French.  Around the time of the Norman Conquest (when the French beat the English), a lot of English words picked up on that soft g from the French.  The English kept that sound, even though, over time, the French vocabulary eventually lost the soft g and went more for an all-out soft j, which could be represented as ʒ or zhe.  
        • In Germany, however, they weren't as interested in the soft g.  They were hanging onto the i = y sound at the beginning of their words.  I suspect that it's because the Germans were a bit more hard-core about reading and keeping up with classical Latin.  Another factor was that they were writing in Blackletter (see the section on Printing). Regardless of the reason, they hung onto Latin's use of the I as Y as in words like Iuno and Iupiter.  

        Blackletter calligraphy in a page from Piers Plowman in Latin
        (Image from Typography 01)

        • So this is why the French pronounce their j's like the soft g while the Germans pronounce their j's like a y.
        • Another result of this difference between French's interest in the soft g and German's retention of the i = y is that most of the words in English that start with the letter j come from Latin through French.  Some English j- words come from other languages like Hebrew or Arabic, but most of them have some involvement with French.

        • In the case of how the letter j came to be written, I do have a "why."
        • In the many centuries between the 11th and 17th centuries, people wrote down a lot of stuff, nearly all of it by hand.  While many of these people studied the art of calligraphy which had its rules and aspirations, it was still hand-done art, which means it was a very fluid.
        • In the case of the letter i, people thought things were getting too fluid.
        • The shortness of the letter, the tininess of the dot above it, and the tendency of the letter to flow into the letter next to it, especially in cursive, led people to decide to make the i stand out more.  So they began to extend the letter below the baseline, and to give that extension a curve, or a tail.

        This didn't turn out quite like I planned, but I hope it's at least clear enough that you can see my point.  The words on the left, which are Latin or Old French words, use the i, while the words on the right use the j.  Even though the words on the left are fairly legible, the j in the words on the right has the effect of separating the syllables and making the parts of the word distinct.
        (By the way, these are all modern script fonts. From top to bottom, I used Bickham Script Pro, Snell Roundhand, Shelley Allegro, Vladimir Script, and Amazone BT.)

          • For a while, this extended i was used only where the i appeared at the end of a word, where people thought it might get lost.  So people were writing words like filii (the plural of "boys" in Latin) as filij, or Roman numerals like xi as xj.

          On this page, which is taken from a Psalter from Flanders that was made around 1260, you can see on the right side about midway down the page, instead of a dot over the i, they made a kind of tilde.  This, too, was another way to make the i distinct. This sort of alteration may have influenced the shape the capital J would later take.
          (Photo from Gallery in the Vault, which collects and sells illuminated manuscript pages.)

          • Over time, the extended i came to take on a life of its own, to be its own letter.  Not only that, it changed from acting like a vowel to acting like a consonant.  First it acted like a y, but over time, it took on that dʒ sound that we know as j.  This process was essentially driven by the ways in which the pronunciation was changing.  So it's at this point that the pronunciation and the printing were really influencing each other.
          • Then, in the middle of all this, the printing press showed up.  You would think this would standardize things, but it did not.
          • For a long time, the I and the J were regarded as different forms of the same letter.  In fact, in many dictionaries, even in some printed as late as the 19th century, words starting with I and J were intermingled.
          • Dr. Johnson (Mr. Dictionary Extraordinaire), said in a note that he thought the I and the J ought to be treated as different letters. But he still grouped some I and J words together: his closing three entries under I were juxtaposition, ivy, and jymold.
          As the OED points out, the close relationship between the I and the J is still apparent in the fact that some people write their script J's in a way that looks a whole lot like a script I -- like this one does.
          (Actually, this J is art, specifically, landscape architecture by Joanna Massey at North Carolina State.)

          • In parts of Europe where they wrote Blackletter calligraphy -- mainly, Germany -- they felt they were able to keep the letter i distinct enough that they didn't need to extend it below the baseline.  After the printing press showed up, it took a lot longer before Germany started using the tailed i, a.k.a. the j, but eventually they did.  But their words which used the j still retained the y sound.

          Some examples of Blackletter calligraphy
          (Image from Typography 01)

          • Another place where this process happened differently was in Spain.  There, when people started printing books on presses, the j was never used as a vowel, only a consonant.  
          • I can't explain why the Spanish consonant j sound is like an h and not the dʒ sound that was coming from French-based words because my OED doesn't explain that.  I guess I'll have to leave that little tidbit for the Spanish linguists to answer for us.
          • And finally, Jason, the Portuguese j is not pronounced like the English j.  See above. 

          lower case j stamped into copper. the j is here to stay!
          (Photo by Leo Reynolds on Flickr)

          I hope I've addressed this question -- or paraphrased the OED in answer to this question -- to everybody's satisfaction.

          The next thing I want to do is look at a few words that I like, in English, that start with the letter j. I promise, those will be more light-hearted and less brain-heavy than this entry. The hour is way too late for me to start doing that today, so for the moment, I'll give you links to some j words that I've already done.

          Jam and Jelly
          James Earl Jones
          Jigsaw Puzzles
          Johnny Cash Songs
          Journal and Journey
          Jumping into the Chicago River

          Yes, I'm reaching with a couple of those.  But I have surprisingly few entries that start with the letter j.  If there are any j topics you're interested in, post a comment to this entry and let me know. 

          Diane Tillotson, Medieval Writing, The History of j
          R. Harmsen,, The Dutch "letter" IJ
          Steisi, Unilang, Pronunciation Guide for Finnish
          Jukka Korpela, Pronunciation of Finnish in a nutshell (for linguists)
          Dario Oliveira Teixeira, Short Portuguese Lessons
          akenotsuki, How to Pronounce Japanese Words
          Angelfire, The Japanese Slang Jisho
          My trusty copy of the Oxford English Dictionary

          Monday, March 1, 2010

          Apple #442: Daffodils

          Hey, it's March.

          Thought I'd do an entry about the flower for the month, which happens to be the daffodil.  So here you go.

          (Photo of daffodils from Let Us Talk)

          • "Daffodil" is the common name for all the flowers that are members of the Narcissus genus.
          • You may remember the myth of Narcissus: 
          • There was once a young man who was so handsome that men and women alike fell in love with him. But he cared for no one but himself. When he spurned one admirer too many, the gods caused him to gaze at his own reflection in a pool of water.  He loved the sight of himself so much, he could not tear his eyes away.  "Now I know what others have suffered from me," he said, "for I burn with love of my own self." 

          Narcissus, looking at himself, and Echo, the hapless nymph who fell in love with him.
          (Painting of "Echo and Narcissus" by John William Waterhouse, is at the British National Museum in Liverpool)

          • In some versions of the story, he bent to try to touch his reflection and was drowned.  In others, he remained rooted to the spot, transfixed by the image of his own face until finally he died. When the gods tried to find his body, they found in its place a new flower, which seemed to bend its head to the ground. They named the flower after him: Narcissus.
          • This fellow is also where we get the word narcissist.  But let's go back to thinking about these flowers by their friendlier name: daffodils.
          • Daffodils are sometimes also called Jonquils, though really there is only one specific species of daffodil that should be referred to as a jonquil.
          • Daffodils are native to the Mediterranean, particularly the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal).

          Where daffodils originally come from.
          (Map of the Iberian Peninsula from

            • The daffodil is the flower of St. David's day, celebrated in Wales on March 1.
            • This year, though, the unusual cold has delayed the daffodil crop, so the flowers are in very short supply for the Welsh holiday.
            • Most daffodils are yellow, but they may also be white or some mixture of yellow and white.

            Paperwhites are one kind of daffodil.
            (Photo from Sherwood's Forest Nursery)

            This daffodil's center, which is often referred to as the trumpet, happens to be orange center.
            (Photo from the University of Nottingham)

            • In England, people sometimes call them the Lent lily because they bloom during Lent.
            • Sprouting from bulbs, daffodils are among the first flowers to bloom in the spring.
            • They are also one of the easiest flowers to grow.  They're very tolerant of the cold, but they will grow in warmer climates, too, even as far south as the Florida and Texas along the Gulf of Mexico.
            • They don't mind shade, either, but only if it's near a deciduous tree.  They won't do well in the shade of evergreens because those block out too much shade.
            • Their favorite places to grow are hillsides or raised beds -- places where the water can drain off -- and in the sun.  They like it if their bulbs are planted about 12 inches below the surface, and then give them lots of water while they're initially growing, please.

            Representation of a daffodil as it grows from bulb to flowering plant.
            (Image from Doug Green's

              • Supposedly, squirrels and chipmunks won't eat daffodil bulbs because they contain little crystals which are poisonous to those animals.  But they may dig up the bulbs and toss them aside.

              This is what daffodil bulbs look like.  Wonderful that they turn into those bright and nodding flowers, isn't it?
              (Photo from Catholic by Grace)

              • Once they've bloomed, they can remain in flower for anywhere from six weeks to six months, depending on the cultivar and the climate.
              • After the plant has bloomed, allow the leaves to turn yellow before trimming them back.
              • They'll continue to sprout for about 3 to 5 years, but you have to dig them up.  After the leaves have yellowed and you've trimmed them, dig them up, wash them off, and let the bulbs dry out for about a week.  Put them in a breathable sack, like an onion bag, and store them in the coolest place you have until next spring.
              • Don't eat daffodils. They're poisonous!

              Here's that famous poem that's got daffodils in it:

              I wandered lonely as a cloud
              That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
              When all at once I saw a crowd,
              A host, of golden daffodils;
              Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
              Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

              Continuous as the stars that shine
              And twinkle on the milky way,
              They stretched in never-ending line
              Along the margin of a bay:
              Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
              Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

              The waves beside them danced; but they
              Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
              A poet could not but be gay,
              In such a jocund company:
              I gazed---and gazed---but little thought
              What wealth the show to me had brought:

              For oft, when on my couch I lie
              In vacant or in pensive mood,
              They flash upon that inward eye
              Which is the bliss of solitude;
              And then my heart with pleasure fills,
              And dances with the daffodils.

              ("I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," William Wordsworth, 1804)

              Wordsworth wrote this poem after his sister told him about coming across a field of daffodils. Perhaps what she saw looked like this:

              This field of daffodils is on a hill in Volcano, CA.
              (Photo by Kepola on Panoramio)

              American Daffodil Society, Frequently Asked Questions and Guidelines for Growing
              The Flower Expert, Daffodils
              Myth Encyclopedia, Narcissus
              Edith Hamilton, Mythology
              Paul Sims, "Lonely as a cloud: Coldest winter for 30 years puts daffodil crop month behind schedule," Daily Mail, February 28, 2010
    , March Birth Flower: Daffodils
              Birth Flowers Guide, March Birth Flower