Vegetation Vocabulary

     Now that we have sent two blogs on the introduction and foreword and such, that flower language can settle into the Monday slot previously occupied by the glories of my Old Joke Quizbook.  Those of you who have been yearning for postcard pictures can resume their regularly-scheduled program today, while those waiting for more flower language will need to yearn until Monday.  Those of you yearning for more old joke quizzes can go back and read the old ones, or check online for a good therapist.

     Nonetheless, we are not straying too far from floriography today.  As I mentioned in the introduction and will examine more thoroughly in the installments to come, flower language is not especially limited to flowers.  The floriographers were interested in anything botanical, so they developed meanings for fruits, vegetables, trees, mosses, individual flower petals and, in the case of some extreme floral cryptographers, even the cloth or string the bouquet was tied up in.  (And if you handed someone a flower sideways instead of rightside up, it changed the meaning to…let’s wait for Monday, eh?)

     But postcard publishers, besides printing their own series of flower language postcards, were willing to show just pretty flower pictures, as you will see in weeks to come as I illustrate the floriography installments.  AND they were interested in other parts of the botanical world.  For one thing, there was a massive vogue, not quite dead even today, for pictures of big vegetables.  These are known as “exaggerated” postcards, and unlike the one at the top of this column, often involved trick photography.  Corn was one of the most popular subjects, but apples, pumpkins, tomatoes, and just about anything else was fair game.

     Our ancestors, who lived in a world where refined sugar was a lot harder to get, found fruit extremely appealing, as food and as symbol.  Of course, sour fruits were considered kind of a disappointment, as we have discussed in previous columns where we discussed the custom of “handing someone a lemon”.  Lemons were considered a symbol of undesirability long before the term was applied mainly to used cars.

     I have not done the research on when really, really good things, especially young women, were described as “peaches” for the first time, but it does feature in a number of pop songs from the turn of the last century, and it is not neglected by postcard artists.

     The number of postcards dealing solely with the puns on pear and peach in the same card would probably make a nice collection alone.

     And then there was this banana craze at roughly the same point in our history, culminating in the inescapable success of the song “Yes, We have No Bananas” in 1923.  Fotr those of you old enough to recall this ditty, I am happy to have introduced your earworm for the morning.

     Ytrr puns were not neglected, since tree names have a tendency to have kust one syllable, making them vulnerable.  This artist used up two puns in one card, and could have done more, but may not have wanted to go that fir.  (Thank you, thank you: just throw money.)

     I think this artist has clouded the issue.  Very nice picture, of course, but is the message “Pine for you” or “Pine cone for you”?  Or am I missing some subtle cultural association, as usual?

     Returning to vegetables, we find that even normal-sized ones had their applications in the postcard world, and were just as liable to atrocious punning

     There was really intense debate, on a professional level, as to whether a pun constituted humor at all, or was just a sort of really cheap word puzzle.  This did not slow down the minds of writers, though, who were not at all abashed to be involved in such games.

     Sorry if you don’t carrot all for such things.  We’ll turn back to flower subjects come Monday.

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