We who have gardens that are plunged in shade are ever grateful to the trusty hosta family. But did you know they have not always been called hostas?
Indeed, this plant used to go by the name funkia. I feel it is a pity that this cute word lost out, because I would like to be able to talk about my funkias.
Although the plant is originally from Asia, neither word is of Asian origin. Both are derived from the names of European scientists: "funkia" from H. C. Funck (1771–1839), a Bavarian pharmacist and botanist, and "hosta" from N. T. Host (1761–1834), an Austrian physician and botanist.
I have only ever heard "hosta" pronounced "HOSS ta", but American dictionaries tell me that in the US "HOE sta" is more common. How do you pronounce it?
Another name for the hosta is "plantain lily", because of its similarity to these plantains, which also grow in my garden but make me less happy than my hostas:
You would think a plantain is called this because, well, it's a plant. But the origin is a quite different "plant": Latin planta (sole of the) foot. Plantains, as you can see, have broad, flat, prostrate leaves looking not unlike a foot. Well, if you use your imagination.
Another pronunciation surprise awaited me when I looked up "plantain" and discovered that I should not be calling it a "plan TANE" as I have always thought, but a "PLAN t'n". The same holds true for the other "plantain", a starchy type of unsweet banana.
Looking at the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, I see that I wasn't allowing any of this "PLAN t'n" nonsense in it, no matter what all the other dictionaries say. To be so bold, we must have done a survey of Canadians about their pronunciation of this word. How do you pronounce it? (Please don't tell me I was wrong!)
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