Friday, May 1, 2015

Schlumbergera seedling no. 082

Yes, Schlumbergera seedlings can still bloom in colors other than orange. Sometimes lots of colors other than orange: this one starts out pink and light yellow (as a bud), becomes red, orange, and white as it opens, and then turns pink/magenta as it ages. So the photos in this post may not look like they came from the same plant -- but they did.

It was pretty exciting to see a new array of photos from TinEye, not to mention a little disorienting (where did all the orange go?) but this was one of those rare cases when I was able to settle on a name without having to consider and reject them one by one.

First, an honorable mention: I think this is the first time I've submitted Schlumbergera colors to TinEye and had it suggest a photo of a Schlumbergera back.1 So I thought about making it a MS Excel joke and calling it "Circular Reference."

But the name I settled on was a combination name from two different photos. First, I got new fruit-related suggestions from TinEye. Ordinarily I get mostly tomatoes, and occasionally grapefruit, but what came up for 082A was a lot of cranberries, strawberries, and pomegranates. Strawberries in particular. (one, two, three) In person, there really is something sort of strawberryish about the color: it would definitely fit. And I'm very fond of strawberries. So maybe "Strawberry-_________".

Second, one of the photos that came up showed a person who reminded me very, very strongly of someone I used to know. It wasn't that person, of course; it was someone about twenty years younger, and from a different country. But the resemblance (the hair! the facial expression!) was strong enough that a lot of memories and feelings about that person welled up, and I realized I was probably never going to have a satisfactory resolution to my life's story with that person, and although I was basically okay with never having that resolved, all the feelings were still there, at something very close to their original level of intensity, and it was surprising and sort of uncomfortable.

I was sure there was probably some word for that experience, and I figured that if there were, I would probably find it at The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, since that's the sort of thing he specializes in, but I didn't find anything that seemed right. So then I tried asking MetaFilter2 for nomenclatural help, and they suggested several terms for the person in the photo.3 Not everything worked for what I was intending, but four stuck out as plausible things to name a seedling:

Schadengeist (the idea was "harm-ghost," in German, though Ivynettle says it doesn't really come across that way)

Madeleine (from the madeleine in Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, as well as a character, Madeline, in Hitchock's Vertigo, which I don't think I've seen; my understanding is that Madeline's role in the movie involves the same person-who-strongly-resembles-another-person situation as my experience)

Saudade (one of those words that winds up on "untranslatable in English" lists a lot; my understanding is that it's roughly "bittersweet nostalgia for something irretrievably lost," in Portuguese, but has a more elaborate article about it)

Revenant (a person who returns after a long absence, often a ghost or spirit that's returned from the dead but not necessarily)

My understanding of German is minimal, and "schadengeist" seems to emphasize harm more than the situation warrants -- yes, stuff with this person was painful at the time, but it's been many years since I've seen them, and seeing the photo of their double wasn't scary or painful as much as just really surprising and intense. And "revenant" didn't really work on the grounds that they're neither actually dead nor actually returned.

I had more or less decided that I wanted to work "strawberry" in there somewhere too, so that left "Strawberry Saudade," which has a pleasing sound to it and is more or less emotionally accurate, or "Strawberry Madeleine," which emphasizes the shock-of-remembering thing more, plus is a thing that might actually exist. (I was eventually able to confirm that they in fact do exist.)

Ultimately, I liked the concreteness of Strawberry Madeleine more than I liked the consonance of Strawberry Saudade, so Strawberry Madeleine it is.


1 Flickr people apparently don't take a lot of photos of orange Schlumbergeras.
2 Oh yeah -- I signed up for MetaFilter a while back. I'm "Spathe Cadet" there. (That groan you just made inside, over the pun? That groan took me more than a year to settle on. I would have joined MeFi ages ago if I hadn't been so worried about choosing the right user name.)
3 Which I'm deliberately not linking the photo, by the way, because the only conceivable thing linking it to an actual person publicly could accomplish would be to make it weirder and more personal. I feel like it's already pretty weird and personal.


Diana said...

I really like this name and the slightly sad, slightly sweet sense of nostalgia it brings.

Pattock said...

Strawberry Madeleine is an excellent name for the plant and the flower looks lovely. You know the story of the man chased by a tiger who falls off a cliff? Proust's afternoon tea and the cliff-dangler are a great juxtaposition.

I can't help thinking that if the Portuguese stopped singing fados long enough to look up nostalgia in a dictionary they would find that it does translate saudade (and sehnsucht) quite adequately. No word can be translated accurately without an essay on the subtleties of the culture that uses it, of course.