Week six: SPIGNEL (probability 9811), by David Sutton

SPIGNEL (or SPICKNEL) is a plant belonging to the carrot family, Meum athamanticum, an umbellifer found in northern grasslands. Other names for it are MEU and BALDMONEY. It has few uses, though Highlanders once chewed the roots and used it as a flavouring, and I suspect that only botanical specialists would now recognise it. Yet this one quite insignificant herb has, counting plurals, contributed eight words to our list, and this is not untypical when it comes to plants: I calculate that the vegetable kingdom — flowers, trees, fruit etc. — is responsible for at least eight thousand words of the words in CSW, or around 3% of the total. When it comes to Scrabble, botanists have even more of a head start than geologists or ornithologists!

Those who relish plant names can do no better than browse through Geoffrey Grigson's scholarly 'Englishman's Flora' or Richard Mabey's superb 'Flora Britannica', both crammed with plant lore and fine old country names, which, in the words of Edward Thomas's poem 'Old Man', 'half-decorate, half-perplex the thing it is': BUGBANE, BUGLOSS, BUPLEVER, BURDOCK, BUTTERBUR, and that's just from the BU-s!

The origin of the name SPIGNEL is unknown, by the way, as is BALDMONEY. MEU comes from the Latin meum.

And the anagram of SPIGNEL is...?


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