Cyclamen Soundings


 In the February 1998 VRS newsletter, Joe Harvey wrote a book review of “Cyclamen” by Christopher Grey-Wilson.  As an addendum, he included the following:  “The problem of how to pronounce the word ‘Cyclamen’ has long perplexed English speakers.  I prefer the short first vowel as in “sick” but others prefer to lengthen the vowel as in “cycle”.  “Plant Names Simplified” by Johnson & Smith has a poem from an old gardening periodical”:


“How shall we sound its mystic name

Of Greek descent and Persian fame?

Shall ‘y’ be long and ‘a’ be short

Or will the ‘y’ and ‘a’ retort?

Shall ‘y’ be lightly rippled o’er

Or should we emphasize it more?

Alas! The doctors disagree

For ‘y’s’ a doubtful quantity.

Some people use it now and then

As if t’were written “Sickly-men”

But as it comes from kuklos, Greek,

Why not “kick-laymen” so to speak?

The gardener with his ready wit,

Upon another mode has hit;

He’s terse and brief, long names dislikes

And so he renders it as “Sykes”.