The first of my clematis vines was blooming in my yard today, and it brought to mind this quote:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other word would smell
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
So it doesn’t matter what you call a rose but what about clematis? Does it really matter how you pronounce the word clematis?
This is an age old gardening question, I think. I think on it frequently. Okay, okay. I admit, I only think about it when I am watching a snooty gardening show and someone says KLEM-UH-TIS. I pronounce it KLEE-MAH-TIS and it bugs me when I hear it pronounced other ways.
So, today when I was looking at my lovely clematis in bloom, I thought of it and I figured I would do some research to find out how you really pronounce the word clematis.
First stop, American Clematis Society. They say that the snooty garden show people are right. But, they themselves are snooty gardening people, so can I really trust them? (I apologize if you belong to the Clematis Society, no offense intended. But let’s face it, if you belong to a club that is for a single type of flower, it’s a snooty club. It’s like belonging to a club for Persian cats or teacup poodles.)
So, the next stop was the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. They had both pronunciations listed as being correct. That, I can live with.
Then I came across this 2 year old post call “I say clem-a-tis, you say cle-mat-is” by the Bookish Gardener on her blog. She did way more research than I would be willing to and from her post, I can definitively say that either pronunciation is correct.
So the next question is, why does it vary? I’m a good Midwestern girl, and I have heard the word clematis pronounced KLEE-MAH-TIS my whole life. Is this like a Midwestern vs. Coast type thing here in the States? You know, like the pronunciation of herbs is? Is it just that my entire gardening experience has happened in a bubble that pronounces clematis that way? I may never know.
But at least know when I have some person tell me I am pronouncing it wrong, I can point out that either pronunciation is correct. I don’t know if that will help me cringe less when I hear it pronounced the “other” way, though.