Welcome to Withenay’s Wednesday Word: a wandering, wondering dip into the dictionary. The topics are always varied and rarely predictable!
the prevention of self-pollination in flowers by the presence of some physical obstacle
From Greek herkos fence, and gamos marriage
This week’s word has been chosen not for its definition but its derivation.
Hercogamy is a botanical term (also spelt herkogamy). I cannot fully picture how this pollination prevention would work in practice (I’m sure there are botanical specialists who would be able to explain it!). Yet working from the definition I can envisage the barrier, or ‘fence’, preventing the pollination, or ‘marriage’. Perhaps the Greek derivation is a valid starting point.
But working from “Fence Marriage” I wouldn’t envisage hercogamy. Even if I knew it was a botanical definition I think I would interpret pollination despite a barrier, rather than prevented by it. In my naivety I picture climbers on my side of the garden fence and others on my neighbour’s, reaching up, tendrils entwining as they seek the best sunlight…and cross-pollination ensuing.
Does that reflect me as an optimist rather than a pessimist?
The logical conclusion is that I would have used a negative within the definition. My Greek is not strong enough to know what that would be – perhaps anti? Using -gamy as fertilisation would it be herkosantigamy? Quite a mouthful – but it is rare for a biological or medical definition to be anything but a tongue-twisting test!
What would your definition of ‘fence marriage’ be?