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Clem a tis, although I can't see what's wrong with pronouncing it Clem May Tis either.

As for vowel sounds, that had me howling with laughter, I am an English, English speaker - how do you pronounce Tomato?


Cluh-MAT-iss. Isn't it?

I heartily endorse this rant. I'm not so much interested in whether the customers know the proper name as whether they know an unambiguous name, and if they've gone to the trouble to get the Latin, we can meet them halfway on the pronounciation. It's not like I pronounce them all properly, either. (Calathea has taken me a while, and I may never feel entirely comfortable with Kalanchoe.)

I love that! "Get the syllables in the right order, then fire away!" That is perfect.

I think everyone is intimidated by pronunciation. Even the experts stumble sometimes.

I have always said (klem-a-tis) with the emphasis on the "klem-a".

You probably already saw it, but Fine Gardening has a pronunciation guide here:

I am sure there are others. Anyone know of other on-line pronunciation guides?

I'm one of those who, as a beginner, accented the second syllable of clematis - til I got corrected. Now I'm obediently in the CLEMatis camp, but no way would I ever correct someone. Who gives a damn?
What I hear mispronounced most often is liriope. Really, unless you've heard this you'd NEVER guess it's 4 syllables.
And Allan, I also love your rule, which if our still-president had ever used might have spared us nuke-u-lar.

Hear, hear. The important thing is to figure out a pronunciation scheme that will help you remember the names, and to be just consistent enough that we can all understand each other--beyond that, who cares?

HOORAY!!! I am about to start the Master Gardener course this January and this is the one area that has been holding me back, making me nervous and doubting my abilities. I will now hold my head high and "fire away"!

"clem-A-tis" -- Only because I think "CLEM-a-tis" sounds pretentious and feel the need to rebel.

I actually write the pronunciation guide in Fine Gardening and voice the pronunciations on the FG website, and I'm sometimes confused. After 4 years of high school Latin, you'd think I'd get it. I hope Mr. Bezy, my Latin teacher, isn't reading this... My strategy is to give a pronunciation that conforms to the rules if I can, but more importantly one that would most likely be recognized if you said it out loud in a nursery. That's what it's all about--making sure you're talking about the right plant, not impressing your gardening friends. That said, I am strongly in the CLEM-ah-tis camp, since I think clem-AT-is sounds like a kind of VD.

"clem-A-tis" -- Only because I think "CLEM-a-tis" sounds pretentious.

...unless you're in England, then "Clem'-a-tis" sounds normal, and "clem-a'-tis" sounds like you don't know what you're talking about.

Huechera is another one that always got to me. It's "Hewk' er-a" not "Hooch-ear' a."

One I can't bring myself to use in the way it was intended is Forsythia. It's named after botanist William Forsyth. So technically, to honor the namesake it is "For-sithe' i-a," not "For-sith' i-a" Now THAT would sound pretentious.

It's sort of like when I travel to France or Italy...

If I make the effort to speak the language, it is greatly appreciated...

Even if I do SLAUGHTER the pronunciation with my Southern US drawl!


My pet peeve is when people say YOO-ker-uh. Yuck!

When I'm talking about clematis, I'm generally raving about sweet autumn clematis--and that settles the pronunciation for me.

Sweet autumn CLEM-eh-tis. The other way sounds silly with autumn in front of it.

Other than that, I generally make an ass of myself whenever I attempt any Latin.

I say "Clem-AH-tis", but my father in law says "Clem-AY-tis", and in his thick Georgia accent it makes me giggle.

And I do agree with Andrew that "CLEM-a-tis" sounds a little snooty---but more than that, awkward.

I've never heard anyone who speaks American English pronounce (in their genuine everyday accent) "Tomato" any other way besides "Tuh-MAY-toe".

My pronunciation rule is, "Just say it with authority".

Throw in a southern accent and a mild case of dyslexia and you can imagine I have my own unique way of saying the scientific botanical names of many plants.

So go ahead, correct me.

Like Humpty Dumpty in "Through the looking glass" I decided that if I paid my words “overtime” they would mean what I want, even if pronounced with a dyslectic Alaskan accent… Even now I tell all my customers to pronounce botanical Latin however they want to, it is “made up” with both Latin and Greek as base and every language since “Latinized” and thrown in… if you stop and think about the “rules” you realize how stupid and out of date they really are, (Mr. Bybee please don't think I hated your Biology Latin Class! You were the best teacher I ever had!).

I remember having a very spirited debate with Jeff Lowensfels years ago on the “correct” way to pronounce Fuchsia…. It was then I decided that language, any language, even Classification Latin was bound by the rule of language evolution, common usage and regional pronunciations. Jeff may be right that Fuchsia has a K sound, but no one else I knew in the nursery trade in Alaska used that pronunciation, so in the end we were both right, after all we both knew which plant we were talking about, and that is what language is for.

I've always liked this little rhyme:

Because it grows upon a lattice,
Some folks call it clematis.
But Noah Webster will moan and hiss,
If you don't call it clematis.

Clem-Ah-tis is how I heard it growing up. Clem MAT-is is how I often here it now. So I just calls 'em "clems".

OK, I studied Latin in school and I'm from Europe, so I probably sound pretentious to most of the rant readers. I hope you'll forgive me if I continue to pronounce the plant names as I was taught.

And no, I've never ever corrected anybody's pronounciation.

I always said cle-mat-is until I saw a Martha Stewart show where she said clem-a-tis. Another one I was mispronouncing was ipomea.

I had a college botany professor whose philosophy was that the entire purpose of botanical latin was for people all over the world to be able to communicate, so as long as your pronunciation got your message across, you were doing fine. That pretty much ended my uneasiness about proununciation as this was a wise man in many ways.

I grew up in the deep south, where almost everyone had LEER-ee-ope growing in their yards, separating the lawn from the flower beds. Out in California, it's rarely used, at least by water conscious gardeners, but it is commonly referred to in the nursery industry as Lir-EYE-o-pee. I made the switch, mainly cos it's more fun to say that way.

As far as fuchsia having a "k" sound, I never could remember whether which came first, the "s" or the "c" until I was told that the "c" comes first, just like the word F***. I don't pronounce it that way, but I always mutter it under my breath if I'm having to write it!!

I agree about Kalanchoe. I say it both ways, depending on my mood.

One thing that irritates me about the misuse of botanical names is when someone comes into the nursery asking for a plant by the species name, without knowing the genus. The best example is the person who asks for a Japonica. This has happened more than once. We don't get very far unless they can describe the plant in detail.

Fuschia is another odd one. It's named after German botanist Leonhart Fuchs (fewks). So, in a perfect world it would be pronounced fewks' i-a. But I'm sure that everyone outside of the Fuchs family says it as few' shia.

Oops, it's spelled Fuchsia. See, I spelled it as I say it!

Bah. I took Latin in school. And Botany. Botanical Latin is made up. So how can we be picky with pronunciation? How about blue oak - Quercus douglasii. They took David Douglas's last name and stuck a posessive ending onto it. That doesn't make it Latin, that makes it Botanical Latin. We need to learn to deal with it. People need to calm down. My Pig Latin pronunciation is pretty bad too. It just needs to get the message across.

And I say Clem-AT-iss.

Best piece of advice I received from a hort professor, " Pronounce it with confidence ".

With regards to this advice: “Get the syllables in the right order, then fire away.”

Didn't work so well when I first started asking about the Cotton Easter bushes I wanted to plant out front...

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