English: Our Weird Language Strikes Again, as I Poke Fun at Myself!

Okay, so I am going out on a limb with this post. But, be assured that I am only poking fun at myself! Lately, I have noticed that I might be mis-pronouncing the name of a plant.  This has happened now on two occasions, the most recent being this Saturday when I co-led a hike this past Saturday on a unique piece of conserved land called a sand prairie. This particular sand prairie is a remnant of land that was created over 12,000 years ago during the last known ice-age. Glacier movement in Wisconsin, during this piece of ecological history,  missed part of our state and we were left with some very unique land forms. The particular piece of land is located about 100 feet above the level of the Upper Mississippi River and is the only remnant of wind formed land (Aeolian) left in the area. But, it is not any of that history that I seem to be mis-pronouncing.

It is one of the plants that lives on sandy soils …. the Wild Blue Lupine. Much like milkweed, the Wild Blue Lupine is a plant that sustains the whole life cycle for one species, the Karner Blue Butterfly.  Our location is slightly out of the range for this type of butterfly, but the plant seems to grow here if the conditions are right. And, one of those conditions is the sandy soil.

In the last two months, I’ve been able to witness the transformation a prairie after being burned. Fire, in this case, has restorative properties for the land. It destroys invasive species, and allows for native species to be rejuvenated and grow to full glory once again. I think you’ll agree that the difference in these two photos is remarkable!

Prescribed Burn on the Holland Sand Prairie

Prescribed Burn. Holland Sand Prairie. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2019

Wild Blue Lupine on the Sand Prairie after the burn

Wild Blue Lupine HSP 2019 CLabuzzetta
Wild Blue Lupine. Holland Sand Prairie. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2019.

In any case, it is the word LUPINE that I seem to be mis-pronouncing. No one has corrected me and I am actually thankful for that because I wonder if what I am saying is actually a dialectic variation. Unlike Wild Blue Lupine, I am not a mid-westerner, but a New Yorker. I have always said LuPINE (like pine tree). But, I notice that after I say this plant name, invariably someone in my presence politely tries to correct me (indirectly) by saying LuPIN (like pin).

So, tonight, after work, I decided to turn to my trusted online dictionary with the imbedded word pronunciation button. This is what I heard: Lupine.  (pronounced like pin, not pine).  Okay, so it does seem I am saying it wrong and to make matters worse, it appears I am saying that the plant has a “wolf-like name” by saying lupine (pine, not pin).

But, here’s the thing: I know most of the rules of phonetics. Not only was I taught this way (which I would not recommend because it makes one a terrible speller), but often the rules are wrong, as is the case with this word.

As the rule goes, an e on the end should make the previous vowel long. In short, this means the word should be pronounced like I am saying it: LuPINE.  However, it ends up not being a correct rule to follow.

To make matters worse, the word, spelled the same way (LUPINE) is pronounced in two different ways depending on if you are using it as a NOUN (the plant) or as an ADJECTIVE (wolfish).

I am also sure that horticulturists and gardeners in Western New York, where I grew up and went to school, refer to this plant as  LUPINE (as it is spelled) not a LUPIN (as we supposedly should be saying it).

It really doesn’t matter to me. Everyone knows the plant to which I am referring when I talk about Wild Blue LUPINES, but I guess I felt the need to explain myself.  English might be english but pronunciations are somewhat determined by regionality.

Maybe, I should start explaining that I am from New York and leave it at that!

As an aside, does anyone know how the werewolf professor in the Harry Potter series spelled his name???? It would be interesting to find out. He was referred to as LUPIN and I would bet, due to the wolfishness of his character it is spelled, LUPINE, in the novel.

I’m going to go find out now by looking at one of the these books that were very well read in our house.

Cheers! (I think there’s only one way to say that! )

A new bed of lupines – minus the wolves! © Carol Labuzzetta, 2019

2 thoughts

  1. I ‘mis-pronounced’ “Peony”. In Utah it’s called PEE-OH-KNEE, not PEE-A-KNEE (which apparently is the correct pronounciation). Pee-a-knee just sounds weird to my ear. My friend, who was born in Ohio and was the know it all who brought my verbal faux pas to my attention for the first time; was sorta smug about it too. Since everyone in Utah was calling the flower a pee-oh-knee, my friend had more strange looks and ‘what are you talking about?” comments. I hold with the idea that it’s a regional thing (just like our differing accents). So you probably weren’t ‘wrong’ exactly. I know you educated ME. I too was calling that blue flower a ‘wolfish’ name.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha-ha! Thanks so much for your supportive comments! I know an English teacher who told me to say it the way I want it after she did a little research following my post! Old habits die hard….I probably will continue to say Lupine (as in Wolfish, as leave it at that – strange looks and all! )


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