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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Sunday, May 8, 2011

I'll see if I have a vase big enough...

How about giving your mother a grove of trees for Mother's Day? That is what “bouquet” originally meant in French. It came from a Germanic word, bosk, also the ultimate origin of the word “bush”. Although a bouquet was by definition a clump of trees, the French started to say, redundantly, “un bouquet d'arbres” (literally a clump of trees of trees). The English “grove of trees” is similarly redundant, because you can't have a grove of anything else. As a result, the French began to think that bouquet meant a “clump” or “bunch” of any plants, and started to talk about a “bouquet de fleurs” – a bunch of flowers. It came into English in the 1700s, when it was terribly trendy to borrow French words.


  1. Hello,

    I wonder if Romanian has "stolen" this from French (or Italian etc.): "boschet" means "bush". On the other hand, we did borrow the word "bouquet" as "buchet". I have never suspected anything about these two words ...

    Anyway, in recent years, when I hear bouquet", I automatically think "Strauss".

    Thank you.

  2. Which led me on a ramble through the OED Online exploring "bosky dell." Thanks, Katherine.


About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.