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A rose is ...

By Nancy M. Kendall / April 26, 1999



The rose is the national flower of the United States and England. How has it influenced our language and history?

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1. This ancient queen invited her paramour to her palace, but only after she'd had her floors covered knee-deep with rose petals - so deep was her belief in the romance of the rose. Who was one of the greatest admirers of this flower?

2. The expression "under the rose," meaning "confidential," came from the Roman tradition of hanging a rose over a conference table. The code of honor was that nothing spoken under the rose was to be repeated. What Latin expression with a rose means "secret"?

3. What French empress was one of history's greatest rose collectors - more than 250 varieties - and sent scouts out all over the world to fill her royal gardens with whatever they could dig up?

4. This US president was the first to plant rosebushes at the White House in Washington. Later, his son enjoyed the roses, too. Who was the president to establish the Rose Garden?

5. What do we call a flower motif made of pleated ribbon or plaster that looks like a rose but doesn't smell like one?

6. It takes 4,000 pounds of pressed rose petals to make one pound of fragrant oil for perfumes and cosmetics. What do we call this precious oil?

7. The Romans were so fond of roses they imported bargefuls of petals and rose hips from Egypt, the big producer. What did the Romans have in their fountains, and what did they sprinkle on their pigeons so they'd flutter scentfully overhead?

8. American writer Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), who believed that poetry is "really loving the name of anything," produced one of the most quoted lines in literature. Her point was simple: "Saying a name any number of times only makes you love it more." What did she say about the rose?

ANSWERS

(1) Cleopatra; (2) sub rosa; (3) Empress Josephine Bonaparte, wife of Napoleon I; (4) John Adams, second US president. His son, John Quincy Adams, was the nation's fifth executive; (5) rosette;

(6) 'attar' of roses, from the Persian word for 'fragrance'; (7) rose water; (8) 'Rose is a rose is a rose, is a rose,' from her poem 'Sacred Emily.' Historians say that Stein's 'rose' was Sir Frederick Rose, a British painter whose work she loved.

SOURCES: 'Garden Flower Folklore,' by Laura Martin; The World Book Dictionary; Webster's Dictionary; 'Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs,' by Claire Kowalchik and William Hylton, eds.; '100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names,' by Diana Wells; 'The Sweet-Scented Rose,' by Sheila Pickles, ed.; 'Roses,' by James Underwood Crockett; 'The Magic World of Roses,' by Matthew Bassity; 'Roses,' by J. Browne; The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, by Robert Hendrickson; Brewer's Dictionary of Prose and Fable, by Ivor H. Evans.