Say…what, exactly…with flowers?

One of the best parts of writing novels, especially weird fantasy novels, is that it justifies just about any weird nonfiction reading I want. (It also leads to weird nonfiction reading, which means me sitting on the T with a book about UFOs and a veeeery defensive expression, but hey.)  For example, yesterday: I have vague thoughts about writing a novel set largely in a flower shop–hey, write what you know–and therefore I found myself checking out the Wikipedia entry on the language of flowers, a quintessentially Victorian “we don’t talk about that” custom where you send roses or daisies or whatever to express what you can’t say.

Some of the entries were what I expected. There’s a lot of variations on love and admiration (including the inevitable red roses–although *black* roses can mean both “hatred” or “rebirth”, interestingly) which have pretty much lasted into the modern day. There are also flowers for rejection–like striped carnations, and I have no idea what the logic is there–which makes some kind of sense, even if we don’t really have the Rejection Bouquet tradition these days. And there are flowers for the more platonic stuff–sympathy,  friendship, etc.  We’ve got that; it’s reasonable; okay.

Then, however, we get stuff that’s…well, it’s either purely theoretical or it’s in the world championship bracket of passive-aggression. Sending someone lettuce means you think they’re cold-hearted (and if you’re the kind of person who sends people salad, I’m guessing a lot of people are cold-hearted where you’re concerned). Mint is suspicion. Yellow roses can mean betrayal, jealousy, or infidelity–which makes the number of them I sold around Mother’s Day just a little weird–and lobelia is “malevolence.” So you can, indeed, send someone a basket of flowers that means “I think you suck, and I’m going to get you,” like the plant-kingdom version of a horse’s head.

Weirder still: aconite is “misanthropy”. I can see the logic there, since if you’re messing around with deadly nightshade a lot and you’re not a doctor, you probably don’t like people much. But as a statement? “Here’s a bunch of flowers. This one says that I hate everyone in the world. Just…so you know.”

The best, however, is probably delphinium, which Wikipedia says means “The ability to transcend the bounds of space and time.”

This may be Wiki being Wiki. I kind of hope it’s not.  I like the idea that, somewhere, there’s a solution for the being who has the ability to break the rules of physical reality as we know it–and who wants to be, you know, *subtle* about announcing it.

Because they don’t have Hallmark cards for that.

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About isabelcooper

I'm Izzy. I write stuff: mostly vaguely fantasy stuff, and most notably the following books: Hickey of the Beast, published March 2011 by Candlemark and Gleam No Proper Lady, published September 2011 by Sourcebooks Lessons After Dark, forthcoming in April 2012 from Sourcebooks I also like video games, ballroom dancing, and various geeky hobbies like LARPing. I have been known to voluntarily purchase and eat circus peanuts. Like, a whole bag at once.
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8 Responses to Say…what, exactly…with flowers?

  1. Firedrake says:

    My understanding is that there were several different but overlapping languages of flowers in different social groups. Just to make things properly prone to humorous misinterpretation…

  2. Melissa says:

    Dammit, I just donated a book about the Victorian language of flowers last week. Now I’m sad, because I’m curious what it said about delphiniums… *sigh* This is why I hate getting rid of any books.

  3. redcrow says:

    So I went to archive.org and did some research. No “delphinium” in sight. Looking for “larkspur” turned out to be somewhat more productive: “swiftness”, “ardent attachment”, “lightness, levity”, “fickleness” (pink), “haughtiness” (purple)… But nothing about time, space or related dimensions.
    I’m disappointed.

  4. frasersherman says:

    I find it works the other way around too: Read a book, get a sudden urge to write a story set in that era …

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