18 December 2012
It’s poinsettia time so I went online to look for a pretty picture. That’s when I got into trouble.
I searched Wikimedia Commons for poinsetta and found only four pictures. Huh? Only 4? That cannot be possible.
One of the photos pointed to another view of the same plant and I finally got the hint. I was spelling it the way I pronounce it — poin SET ah — without the second “i.” I was spelling it wrong.
The plant became popular as a Christmas decoration when Albert Ecke became fascinated by them, his son learned to make them into bushier, more beautiful plants, and his grandson promoted them on television in the 1960’s. The rest is history.
Meanwhile, I was shocked — shocked! — to discover that there are two i’s in poinsettia and the second “i” should (or could) be pronounced. I have never pronounced that second “i” and I wondered if this was a ‘Burgh thing (we have a notoriously vowel poor accent) so I conducted an informal poll.
How do you say the name of this plant?
So far, everyone I’ve asked says poin-SET-ah (no second “i”). Two people knew about the extra “i” and one of them changed her pronunciation after she learned about it — but she didn’t start out that way.
I’ve heard that in some parts of the U.S. people say poin-SET-tee-ah, but if you’re from the Pittsburgh, well… Poinsetta.
Hah! No wonder I misspelled it.
(photo by André Karwath on Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)