Dec 18 2012

How Do You Say?

Published by at 7:20 am under Plants

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.  I was spelling it wrong.

Poinsettias are native to Mexico where they are very leggy plants in the wild.  They were named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, first U.S. Minister to Mexico, who brought them to the U.S. in 1825.

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)

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “How Do You Say?”

  1. Donnaon 18 Dec 2012 at 7:52 am

    I always knew the second “i” was there, but being a Pittsburgher, I just can’t bring myself to pronounce it that way. Happy Holidays to all!

  2. Kathyon 18 Dec 2012 at 9:53 am

    I remember watching Johnny Carson… YEARS AGO…with my Mom and he and Ed McMahon were having a lengthy discussion about how to pronounce it. They were all over the TV set. That is when I learned about the second I. I have been know to say it both ways. I just know that it is beautiful and have been told you should not let your cats near it.

  3. John P. Englishon 18 Dec 2012 at 10:44 am

    I’ve always said poinT-SET-tee-ah. Not sure where that extra T came from (probably parents) but I always need to mentally say the word before actually uttering it. And it still comes out wrong! :-/

  4. Mom Teeon 18 Dec 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I hate to say this but……you grew up in a house where the second “i” was (and is) pronounced! Kids rarely listen, do they! See you soon.

  5. Anne Marieon 18 Dec 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Ha John! My parents had the second T too! Learned about the second “i” at some point in my adulthood and now say poin-SET-tee-ah

  6. Kate St. Johnon 18 Dec 2012 at 12:23 pm

    I’ve lived in Pittsburgh so long that I don’t even realize I have a Pittsburgh accent. ;)

  7. Michelle, Colorado Springs, COon 18 Dec 2012 at 4:40 pm

    I haven’t lived in the Pittsburgh area since 1982 and I still pronounce it without the second I. lol On another note, we were stationed in Panama and actually saw them growing in the wild. That’s when I learned there was more than one color. It was amazing. :)

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