Robin Camille Davis
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July 17, 2009
Tags: words

If you read my Twitter, you know what I've been up to this morning... Exploring the Electronic OED! One of the best perks of going to Brown is that the school subscribes to it. After graduating, I'll definitely splurge, because I use it embarrassingly often. Not daily, but... Okay, yes, daily. (FYI, Individual subscribers' rate is $295/year or $30/month. Steep.)

An hour ago I looked up "pig" as in a "salt pig", curious after a trip to Williams-Sonoma. Pig or pygg, aside from our hoggy friends, also means an earthenware vessel. Then I began clicking at random, as I do, and came across this interesting etymology of daffodil:

It has been variously suggested as due to childish or playful distortion, as in Ted for Edward, tante for aunt; to union of the article th' (cf. COTGR., Affrodille, Th' Affodill, and north. Eng. t' affadil); to final d of and, in (e.g.) ‘fennell an-d affodil’; to union of the Dutch or Flemish article, as de affodil = the affodil; and to Fr. prep. d' as in fleur d'aphrodille. It is noteworthy that as in Eng. the word has gained a letter, in 16th c. Fr. it sometimes lost one: Littré (s.v. asphodèle) quotes from De Serres (16th c.), ‘Des racines d' afrodille’, and also ‘Decoction de lapace, de frodilles’. A third form dafrodille is quite conceivable.
Affodill and its popular variants daffodil, daffadilly, were originally and properly the Asphodel; then by popular misconception, due apparently to the application to both plants, at their first introduction to England, of the fanciful name Laus tibi (see Turner Libellus B3b), it was applied, especially in the popular variations, to species of Narcissus, etc. Botanists, after resisting this misapplication, compromised the matter by retaining affodil for the Asphodel, and accepting the more popular daffodil for Narcissus. Finally affodil was ‘rectified’ to asfodyl and asphodel, and daffodil restricted in popular use to the Yellow Narcissus or Yellow Daffodil of Eng. fields and gardens.



Lastly, according to the Wikipedia entry on the Narcissus genus, daffodils "contain the alkaloid poison lycorine, mostly in the bulb but also in the leaves"!!