Sunday, 14 August 2011

Naming things

hover fly
I am sitting at a table surrounded by leaves from all kinds of trees picked on a recent walk and slowly drying out. I have picked them to try and identify them at the ripe old age of 56. I feel cross with myself that I cannot identify a Hornbeam or be sure which is a Maple or a Plane Tree. Surely you would think this can't be possible. I have reached this point having conveyed the extent of my knowledge tree wise to my partner who knew less than me and could just about tell an oak from a chestnut. He now at least knows an elder from a hawthorn...but why do we have this need to name things? Take insects for example. A new camera means we can get in close and be fascinated by the tiniest of insect. So that means we need to know what it is called...the hover fly is easy but what about what I now know is a Demoiselle Damsel - a kind of dragon fly - we saw at the canal just up the road.

I have recently catalogued the plants in my garden - a way to learn some new names really. I started out on this quest as a small girl picking wild flowers down Cornish country lanes on holiday. I probably learnt about Pink Campions first, then Trefoil and then Cow Parsley. I could have been learning about Greek Gods  about which I know nothing unlike  my partner, but I have a litany that relates to nature. It is funny what sticks. A level biology and the most insistent name in my memory is Fucus vesiculosis - bladder wrack seaweed - and Laminaria Saccharina, another seaweed like strips of leather. I cannot pass either without a silent chant. Perhaps there is something quite soothing about names - when they come to mind that is - perhaps they are a link with the past and a symbol of living....


  1. On FB Jan wrote: What were you like as a foreign language learner? I always enjoyed the challenge of remembering the names of everyday objects in other languages and just love the sound of words! These days i enjoy naming plants too. Keep up the blogging Susan - a lovely read!

    and Eileen wrote: You are getting good at this! I always wondered what that seaweed was called; I won't remember it though - brain is definitely like a sieve now

  2. My sister and brother-in-law can name so many things in nature that they rival any of the traditional text books. I have come to realise my role is to listen and welcome the spilling of knowledge gained in happy pastimes.

  3. Bridlestone - I appreciate you reading these blogs. My role is to listen to the topics my partner loves - nothing ever sticks...suppose it is what lights your fire really [and a few memory brain cells functioning...!]