Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/616

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596
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

from Barbary, in Africa, does not harmonize well with what is known of the plant's distribution.

To return, then, to the Latin form, however it may have originated, we find it giving rise to the English berberry in a manner suggestive of adaptation to a new linguistic environment. By a somewhat similar process have probably arisen from the same original the form pepperidge, pipperage, piperidge, and piprage, by which the plant is popularly known in parts of England and Ireland. The ease with which the closely similar sounds b and p can pass one into the other, taken in connection with the obvious resemblance of the barbery fruit to small red peppers, doubtless gave direction here to the obscure forces which bring about the corruption of words.

The same Latin root makes its appearance in several names used in Germany. Thus, among those given by Adelung (1774) are Berbeisze, Berbis, Berwitze. The name most commonly met with in modern books is Berberitze, which, in view of the circumstance that ritzen means to scratch (apropos of the spines),

PSM V45 D616 Berberis vulgaris.jpg
Fig. 2.-Berberis vulgaris. A leaf rosette and flower cluster.

surely looks like another case of assimilation, analogous to what we found in English. That the Germans are fond of embodying in their names of this plant some reference to its more or less obvious qualities or uses is sufficiently proved by the following list gathered from various lexicons: Sauerdorn (sour thorn), Essigdorn (vinegar thorn), Weinschierling (wine hemlock), Weinnäglein, wine clove), Weinäuglein (wine eye), Kreuzdorn (cross thorn), and so on.

In French, besides the older berbere, and the form berberis, which is in common use to-day, we have épine-vinette, which Littré considers may have been given to the plant either because of its clusters of berries, resembling grapes, or because a sort of tart berry wine is made from them, or else because of its acidity, vinette being in many provinces the name of sorrels, sour grapes, and the like. This last supposition would make the name a counterpart of the German Sanerdorn.

The Spanish berberis and the Italian berberi do not, of course, call for any special explanation. Without attempting to make a complete list of the names which have been applied to this plant.