MÁRGERITE / oxeye daisy

photo source: wikimedia

márgerite“, s.f., pronounced [märgərɪt(:)] 🔊, sometimes “grân márgerite“, historically perhaps interchangeable with “błȧn ménleu“, common daisy, which some speakers may also call “(ptite) márgerite”, is the Sarkese name for “oxeye daisy” or “dog daisy” etc. (Leucanthemum vulgare), a wild flower of Sark, native to Europe and Asia, belonging ot the group of flowers we call “ménleu“, daisies in Sarkese. “márgerite” is one of the very first flower names ever documented for Sarkese, thanks to “Élŷ Brévîn“, a 17th century minister of Sark, who in one of his famous notes describes its heliotrophism.

The house and property in Sark called “la Márgerite“, la Marguerite in Anglo-French, is believed to be named after the flower, so lit. the Daisy.

origin: Gallo-Romance (orig. Greek) / first recorded for Sarkese: 1600s (ÉB) / current status in the 21st century: preserved, in use

“márgerite” is an invaribale feminine countable noun (a she-word that doesn’t change in plural), which means that unlike with “ménleu“, we may easily say “une márgerite”, a/one oxeye daisy, “deù márgerite”, two oxeye daisies etc. The pronunciation is regular, though it should be remembered, that “-á-” in “már-” is, as indicated by the diacritic, pronounced as a regular stark [ä], like if in an open syllable. The weak ‘e’ in ‘ge’, whose nature is indicated by the lack of any diacritic, has to be always pronouced here, since it follows a ‘r’ in “márge-“.

On the meaning: márgerite vs błȧn ménleu

Due to the ressemblance of their flowers, oxeye daisy or dog daisy, “márgerite“, and common daisy or lawn daisy, “błȧn ménleu” may sometimes be confused. The main difference between the two, anyone can tell right away, is the lenght of the stem, with oxeye daisy being longer, and generally larger, while common daisies being much tinier.

photo source: wikimedia

As for their names, the Sarkese speakers may be (at least historically) divided into three groups: on those who call oxeye daisies “márgerite” and common daisies “błȧn ménleu“, those who call the two the other way around and finally those who call them both “márgerite”, with oxeye daisies being called “grân márgerite”, lit. big marguerites, and lawn daisies “ptite márgerite”, lit. small marguerites. As any other daisy, even “márgerite”, no matter its exact meaning in one’s language, is formally included among the “ménleu“, daisy-like weed.

Interestingly though, in the 70s of the 20th century, P. Brasseur documented as a general distinction between the two in Sarkese being “márgerite”=lawn daisy vs “błȧn ménleu”=oxeye daisy. With regard to “jòne ménleu“, corn marigold or yellow daisy, this would only seem logical, since corn marigold and oxeye daisy are much more similar in appearence, only one being white, the other yellow. This is actually reflected in many languages, in which oxeye daisy and corn marigold share one name. Nevertheless, such a distinction is practically inacceptable for all of the last speakers and semi-speakers today, and those who still use the two names activelly, accept only “márgerite”=oxeye daisy and “błȧn ménleu”=lawn daisy, which has been confirmed over many cups of teas over the past few years.

If, historically, the names were indeed used the other way around, one of the possibilites could be that the distinction may have been influenced by the Modern English and Modern French term “marguerite”, which means “oxeye daisy”.

On the origin – from pearls to daisies, from daisies to a B&B

No matter the historical meaning, the Sarkese “márgerite”, oxeye daisy, is directly related to the Guernsey Norman “marguerite”, oxeye daisy, the Jersey Norman “mérgot”, common daisy, and the French folk name for oxeye daisy “marguerite”, which was introduced in English as “marguerite” and in German as “Margerite”. While in most of the languages its meaning today is “oxeye daisy”, in Old British English, in Jersey Norman and historically perhaps even for some Sarkese speakers, it’s “common daisy”, see above.

The French “margerite”, adopted in English and German, and the Sarkese “márgerite” both originate in the Gallo-Romance “margerite”, meaning primarely “pearl”, issued from the Latin “margarita”-pearl, which itself originates in the Greek word “margarítēs”, again, pearl, iself probably being a loan word from an Old Indo-Iranian language, meaning possible “oyster” – what a backround story, right? 🙂

The reason why the word changed its meaning from “pearl” to “daisy” is unclear, although the main association lies in the white colour of a pearl and a daisy’s petal leaves. Some mention the coincidence of the celebrations of Saint Margaret’s day and the time when daisies bloom – nonetheless, both common daisy and oxeye daisy bloom for several months.

The oldest known Gallo-Romance occurence of the word in the meaning of not “pearl”, but “daisy”, appears in the famous comedic story of Aucasin et Nicolete (Aucassin et Nicolette), written in the Picard language, dating sometime between the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th century.

The first known mention of “márgerite”, written as “marguerite”, for Sarkese comes from the 17th century, thanks to “Élŷ Brévîn“, a back-then minister of Sark and the author of the famous notes, who founded noteworthy that “márgerite”, both “garden” ones and wild ones, exhibit a phenomenon known today as “heliotrophism”, meaning oxeye daisies follow the sun moving in the sky during the day. This may seem helpfull to determine what was the meaning of the word “márgerite” in the 17th century Sark Norman, whether oxeye daisy or common daisy, but unfortunatelly, we may not confirm which daisy É. Brévîn had in mind, since most daisies follow the sun eagerly, not only oxeye daisies, but especially common daisies. Nevertheless, the mention of “garden marguerite” indicates possible existence of cultivated forms vs wild forms, which would clearly favour our oxeye daisies.

Finally, not only every islander, but also many tourists know about a place in Sark, which is most probably related to oxeye daisies – the ancient house and now also a fine B&B, la Marguerite, known in Sarkese as “la Márgerite“. It is unclear, how this house got its name, but it is generally believed, it was named after oxeye daisies, which may have been plentiful on the piece of land which was sold off from “la Fripůnnî” in 1610 and whih is today owned by the descendants of William Carré and Nancy, née Guille, who inherited the property in 1897.


Citation: NEUDÖRFL, Martin. márgerite/oxeye daisy. In: Sark Norman Dictionary Online [on-line]. https://www.bonjhur.net/sndo-vocab-flora-margerite

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