Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Book passage/One Man's Garden

"Wort" is the old word for plant, and it survives in such forms as mugwort, sandwort, figwort, and so forth, and is pronounced "wirt"; in fact, it was formerly spelled "wyrt." It has the same vowel sound as world, worthy, worship, worst, worry, worm, word, work, and there is a great plot in America to make wort rhyme with fort. No. WIRT. It is rude to correct someone's pronunciation in conversation, so I never do that, but it curls my teeth to hear it wrong, and on my more paranoid days I believe there is a conspiracy for every human being who cannot speak English to dash up to me and say wort like fort. Truly, the sufferings of a garden writer are vast.
Henry Mitchell, One Man's Garden



  1. That whole passage makes me laugh. I have to admit to a tendancy to make wort (in plant names) rhyme with fort. It is the way I've always heard it, and didn't know there was any dispute. However, I'll gladly change my pronunciation, as I've never liked the affiliation of a lovely plant with an ugly word that sounds like "wart." lol!

  2. He is the most delightful man. He doesn't take life or gardening too seriously. Who could with a bloodhound? (a dog on my list to get) We've always said it the fort way too, and I'm so pleased to know the correct pronunciation.

  3. Aisling, As I look closer, I think Mitchell's dog is a Basset Hound. Also, a fun and funny fellow.

  4. I love Henry Mitchell, and just for him, I'm going to work on my pronounciation of Spider-Wirt!
    (His book The Essential Earthman was the 1st book chosen for the Garden Bloggers' Book Club).

  5. So at the risk of offending Harry Potter fans everywhere, I guess we should call it Hogwyrts?

  6. I'm another who pronounces it as rhyming with fort.

    I also like to note the difference in how peony is said. Here we call it a pea-o-knee, emphasis on the 'o' but I have heard people on tv say pea-a-knee, emphasis on the first part.

  7. Carol, I haven't read that one yet. I'm thrilled to know I have more ahead. What a great writer.

    Jill, I love it! Maybe that's why the author spelled it wArt. :<)

    Vicky, that's so interesting. I have heard it only pea- a - knee, with emphasis on pea.


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