Dictionary Review

Latin - English - French -Spanish - Italian - Dutch -German

Editor: W. E. Clason

ISBN: 0 44442977-8

Publisher: Elsevier

Date of publication: December 1989

Price: $ 241.50

ˇ Number of pages/entries: 1,024 pages, 8185 terms

ˇ Quality of paper & print: Acid-free paper, two-column layout.

ˇ Typeface: (Large & clear) Main entries (in Latin) are in bold face, italics are used for the acronyms indicating the other six languages. The font is small but very legible.

ˇ Quality of binding: The volume is solidly hardbound. We are back to green covers, thank you!

ˇ Readability: Excellent.

ˇ Convenience of look-up: The main listing is alphabetically organized around the Latin scientific terminology, as it is customary for botanical references of this type. The eternal double search winch this method requires is not very convenient, but if there is an alternative, nobody has ever found it.

ˇ Grammatical information: None.

ˇ Contextual and encyclopedic information: None.

ˇ Appendices: None.

ˇ Percent "filler words": None.

List about 20 terms you expect to find in this type of work:

Echinops sphaerocephalus or globe thistle

Cymara cardunculus var. scolymus or artichoke

Astragalus or milk-vetch (plus 37 other varieties)

Jasminum or jasmine (spelled jessamine)

Ulmus or elm (19 varieties listed. Prieszter offers only 17.)

Rhododendrum or rose-bay (R. arboreum is missing, as well as R flavum. In exchange, R. ferrigineum, hirsutum, lappopicum, luteum, maximum, ponticum are beautifully detaied)

Oryza sativa or rice

Leontopidum alpinum or edelweiss

Eucalyptus including E.globulus (but the synonym E. glauca is missing)

Thymus or thyme (77 varieties out of Priezter 87!)

Capparis or caper. Capparis spinosa or rupestris is present, but C. ovata or sicula is missing. This omission is particularly painful. A "pizza romana" without a healthy dose of Capparis ovata doesn't deserve the Italian seal of approval.)

List 10 special terms that you have not found in other dictionaries in this field but which are present in this dictionary and add to the value of the work:

As far as I can tell, there are only four other dictionaries in this field:

Bedevian, Armenag, Illustrated Polyglottic Dictionary of Plant Names. I-A-Ar-T-E-F-DI*. Cairo: Argus & Papazian, 1936


Priszter, Szaniszló, Trees and Shrubs of Europe -- Dictionary in Eight Languages. E-F-DH-I-S-R-L*. Budapest (dist. Kultura, P.O. Box 149, H1389 Hungary): Akadémia Kiadó, 1983.


Vaucher, Hugues, Dictionary of Trees and Shrubs. L-E-F-G-I*. Elsevier, 1986


Willims, G. & Hunyadi, K, Dictionary of Weeds of Eastern Europe. L-Al-B-C-D-E-G-H-PI-RuR-SC-Sk*. Elsevier, 1987

A comparison is quite difficult, considering the different pairings and scope of these references. Clason has concentrated on Italian and British flora and has excluded all rare plants from his listing. Furthermore, when Clason's extensive experience and sources did not produce a vernacular name, he offers "especially [in] Spanish ... a literal translation of the scientific term." I can vouch for one thing: I have found every relevant plant I like to eat, look at and smell.



How do you crown 92 years of curiosity and more than half a century of lexicographic commitment? You edit a reference such as Clason's Dictionary of Wild and Cultivated Plants.

 This dictionary is a fine jewel, which fulfills the highest expectations one could have. Of course, a few minor flaws are unavoidable.

 For instance, if we consider one of my wife's preferred flowers, the swordlilly, we find that this term is attributed to Glaudiolus communis (common -), G. inbricatus (imbricated -), G. palustris (marsh -), G. byzantinus (Byzantine -) and G. dubius (meridional -), but G. illyricus becomes gladiolus. Conversely, the other English common name (corn-flag) is paired only with G. italicus. A number of Italian alternative renditions are missing (iride, trombetto, ghiacicolo, spadino, fil di spada, monacuccia, fiore appiolino) as well as the German common alternative to Garten-Siegwurz (why "Garten-?"), i.e.:Gewöhuliche Siegwurz.

 Generally speaking, the regional variations of common names are inconsistently portrayed.

Barley is represented by 18 varieties of Hordia. Two English renditions are offered for Hordeum Murium: Wall barley and way bent. Mouse barley and worse wild barley are strangely absent. The Italian version is richer, including orzo selvatico, erba spiga, forasacco, erba codola; but orzo dei muri, orzo dei ratti, gano canino, coda di scoiattolo are not recognized. Amazingly enough, orzo dei ratti reappears m French (orge des rats), Dutch (muitzengerst) and German, (Maüse-Gerste), while orzo dei muri (our lowly wall barley) is mirrored in Spanish (cebada de los muros) and in French (orge des murs).

Nevertheless, I am quibbling. In the mixed bag of Elesvier's authors, Clason and Dorian have always been a full head above the crowd. This duo (there are others too, I know) has made Elsevier a terminological giant. They help us forgive and forget that the esteemed Dutch publisher sometimes has feet of clay, as shown by a few butchered references whose editors and compilers shall (should?) remain nameless. Is there a chance that the Godel Medal might be awarded to a lexicographer? W. E. Clason certainly deserves it.