How Do the French Say Bougainvillea?
My best Bougainvillea photo. See caption below.
Boo-zhaan-vee is how it should be said.
The islands of Hawaii are home to millions of Bougainvillea bushes, commonly called Bouganvilla, Bougainvillea or Bougainville. They sit in varying hues of deep pink, magenta, purple, white or coral pink. The flowers themselves are white, tiny, and have no scent. Yet these tiny flowers clothed in blousy colors lure the human soul to the shores of Hawaii like a fluid mirage on a desert oasis. The colorful blooms are not flowers. Three colorful paper-like bracts surround each little white floweret. These vines of lush colors are members of the tropical family Nyctaginaceae. The sturdy vines can be guided and trimmed to grow as potted plants and petite bushes or they can be persuaded by water, sun and fertilizer to become 20’ hedges.
Up Close and Personal.
Where did this plant originate?
The Bougainvillea origins are in South America, specifically from Brazil, west to Perú and south to southern Argentina. Bougainvillea is now found in many tropical or semi-tropical countries and it is known by names local to those countries.
The plant requires full sun for five or more hours per day. Once its root system is established, it does not require much water. There are many beautiful kinds of Bougainvillea. The hardiest and most popular can be ordered from local nurseries. With a slightly green thumb, cuttings can be propagated for free, no nurseries required. Here are a few names of the better-known varieties: California Gold, Vickie, Bouganvillea Deep Purple, Texas Pink, Juanita Hatten, Barbara Karst, Jamaica White, Sundown, Texas Dawn, Double Pink, and Surprise.
A Fascinating Book about a Fascinating Lady
It was Louis-Antoine de Bougainville (notice the correct spelling of his name) a naval commander from France, who discovered – or perhaps co-discovered – this marvelous botanical delight. There is a new book on this very subject. It is entitled , The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe. The author of the book is Glynis Ridley Crown.
In 1766, Monsieur Bougainville set out to circumnavigate our globe. A naturalist, Monsieur Commerson, accompanied the naval commander. Also onboard, unbeknownst to most of the crew, was a woman, Jeanne Baret. She was disguised as a young man. She endured much hardship on the voyage. The book sets out to document the probability that it was Ms. Baret, not the ship’s naval officer, Bougainville, who discovered the vine. I am looking forward to obtaining a copy of this book and reading it.
Just a Little Gentle Joshing
I submit to you that whether Bougainville deserved credit for the discovery of the tropical plant bearing his name – or not – he did not pronounce the plant’s newly given name in a guttural English. The Free Online Dictionary defines guttural as “Of or relating to the throat. Having a harsh grating quality, as certain sounds produced in the back of the mouth.” I have never heard a person on the Hawaiian Islands correctly pronounce this colorful plant’s name. I am not of French descent nor do I hold any sway among the locals, so I do not argue the point orally. But each time I hear the name Bougainvillea or Bougainville spoken with the letter ‘g’ as a hard consonant (such as in the word goat) I cannot help but re-pronounce the word in my own mind.
A Frenchman, when saying the name Bougainville or Bougainvillea (either way) would pronounce the letter ‘g’ as a soft ‘j’ as in the word 'genre'. As for the two L’s in the name, if a French person is saying Bougainville, he would not pronounce the letter ‘L’ at all. He would say, in effect, “Boo – jon – vee.” Captain Louis-Antoine de Bougainville would have said his own name with pride and the correct French accent! He did not name the plant in honor of an Englishman.
There are more than 80 colors and varieties of Bougainvillea available in the United States.
Botanical information for this hub has been gleaned from an internet article titled, Growing Bouganvilleas, http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/publications/bougainvillea.html. Information about the new book which sheds light on the discovery of the plant now called Bougainvillea or Bougainville was obtained from a newspaper article in The Maui News, December 2010, a book review, entitled: Discovering a Remarkable Woman who hid from History. The newspaper article was written by Douglas K. Daniel.
The slight irritation regarding the mispronunciation of a Frenchman’s name is entirely my own. The French pronunciation of the name Bougainvillea enjoys a romantic, lovely glide over the tongue – and so, too, does Bougainville. Jeanne Baret? Oui. Baret, also.
© 2011 Pamela Kinnaird W
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