Thursday, 21 June 2012

the meaning of suave

After I listened to a gardening program on the radio last weekend, I told a friend  I'd figured out that the word suave must mean 'sweet'. She didn't believe me. She felt sure it means 'smooth'. I began to doubt my detective work, because I also thought it had that meaning.

I'd come up with the idea of 'sweet' because the gardening expert, in referring to mentha suaveolens, said, 'As the name suggests, it has a sweet smell'.

Now that I've looked around the Net to check up the meaning, I'm pleased to say I was correct in my guess. A website about acacia suaveolens specifically explains the Latin meaning of the word suaveolens.

And then the lyrics of an old tune popped into my head.

The sweet scented wattle sheds perfume around,
Delighting the bird and the bee,
While I lie and take rest in my fern covered nest
In the shade of the currajong tree.
High up in the air I can hear the refrain
Of a butcherbird piping his tune
For the spring in her glory has come back again
To the banks of the reedy lagoon.

I always thought the song referred to any wattle with a sweet scent, but perhaps it's specifically about acacia suaveolens, 'the sweet scented wattle'.

There's a different version of the lyrics here, with the interesting explanation that the words were probably originally composed in the nineteenth century by a young man working as a jackaroo, who would have been expected to sing for the squatter's family in the evening.

And, as a bonus for my research, I now know that the mystery plant in my garden is variegated apple mint (mentha suaveolens variegata).

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