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First Impotence and Chlamydia, and Now…

May 5, 2011

No, don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you about anyone’s sexual problems. Just about my customers’ problems with plant names.

My first customer on Tuesday came in asking for ‘what are they called?… Implants?’

I managed to direct her to the Impatiens with a straight face, then disappeared to the back of the shop for a private giggle as I remembered this story (thanks to Mr_Subjunctive for linking to it – still one of my favourite stories on Not Always Right!).

‘Implants’ isn’t quite as funny as ‘impotence’, of course, and ‘cycloms’ (which sounds like a cross between a Cyclamen and a cyclops) isn’t quite as funny as Chlamydia. And the names our customers give to wallflowers are more weird than hilarious: Purslane. Snapdragon. Dandelion. I think after hearing the last one, I just stood there staring and blinking stupidly for a minute, thinking, ‘What?‘*

But today, I got a seriously funny and Not-Always-Right-worthy one:

Customer 1: ‘Oh, look, they’ve got Cape Gooseberries! I need to buy one!’

Customer 2: ‘Cape Gooseberries? What are those?’

Me, wearily launching into the explanation I’ve given dozens of times already: ‘They’re those round yellow fruits, in those leafy husks – Physalis, they’re also called -‘

Customer 2: ‘Oh! Syphilis! Yes, I know those!’


* It made more sense to me after hearing it called ‘snapdragon’ for the first time. I can sort of, kind of see a wallflower looking a bit like a snapdragon to an untrained eye – if I try really, really hard! Anyway, snapdragon is ‘Löwenmaul‘ (lion’s mouth) in German, and dandelion is ‘Löwenzahn‘ (lion’s tooth). The ‘purslane’ thing also makes more sense in German – wallflower is ‘Goldlack‘ (litterally, gold varnish), and purslane is ‘Portulak‘, so the last syllable sounds the same. But still …!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 6, 2011 00:11

    I’ve heard Chlamydia for clematis but never Cyclamen!

    • May 6, 2011 20:05

      It does make a little more sense with Clematis.

      Still giggling about ‘syphilis’…


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