BŁȦN MÉNLEU / common daisy

photo source: wikimedia

błȧn ménleu“, s.m., pronounced [bʎɑ̃: mɛ̃nlœə̯] 🔊, lit. white daisy, or simply “ménleu, sometimes (due to its ressemblence to oxeye daisy) also called “ptite márgerite” or márgerite, are the common Sarkese names for “common daisy” or “lawn daisy” etc. (Bellis perennis), a wild white-flowering flower, native not only to Sark, but to most of the European Continent, having colonised even the most remote islands in the Atlantic Ocean. “błȧn ménleu” belongs, together with the other daisies, such as “jòne ménleu” (corn daisy or corn marigold), “márgerite” (oxeye daisy or dog daisy), “ptit mêtre” (feverfew), “camẏre” (cammomile), all the mayweeds and even sea campions, “ménleu á věsŷ“, to the heterogenous group of flowering weeds which fall under the term “ménleu“, daisy, in Sarkese. If one of these plants flowers in white, it may also be called simply “błȧn ménleu”, in the generic meaning of “white daisy”.

origin: Gallo-Latin (Gaulish) / first recorded for Sarkese: 1930s? (JPC) / current status in the 21st century: preserved, in use

“błȧn ménleu” is a compound name. The main noun “ménleu is invariable, uncountable and masculine (a he-word that does not change and cannot be counted), meaning that when we talk about common daisies in general, we combine the name with the so-called partitive, while the adjective “błȧn, masc. remains invariable too, so “du błȧn ménleu”, lit. (some) lawn daisy, never “dê błân ménleu“, (some) lawn daisies. Even though the plural form is not prefered, we may go around saying “two pieces” or “three flowers” of lawn daisy etc., f.e. “deù mórsyò d’błȧn ménleu” or “trê fłeur d’błȧn ménleu”. Regarding the pronunciation, as indicated by the diacritic in ‘én’, we pronounce the ‘n’ fully in ‘ménleu’. The ‘ȧ’ in “błȧn” indicates that there used to be a silent ‘c’, however that is not reflected in the pronunciation and the adjective is pronounced simply as [bʎɑ̃:].

On the meaning: błȧn ménleu vs márgerite

The name consists of the adjective “błȧn“, “white”, and the noun ménleu“, which could be translated as “daisy” or “daisy-like weed”. Today, the only acceptable meaning of “błȧn ménleu”, for the last speakers, who still actively use the term, is either “lawn daisy”, or simply “white daisy” in the most generic manner of speaking, but always with a clear distinction between “common daisy” and “márgerite“, oxeye daisy, when speaking of these specific daisies. Only the speakers who do not recall the term “ménleu”, would call common daisy “ptite márgerite”, lit. little oxeye daisies, or just “márgerite”. None of the remaining spekaers would however call oxeye daisy “błȧn ménleu”.

Interestingly though, in the 70s of the 20th century, P. Brasseur documented the opposite use of the name “błȧn ménleu” and “márgerite” for Sarkese. According to his consultants, “márgerite” actually meant “lawn daisy”, while “błȧn ménleu” “oxeye daisy”. Moreover, in Guernsey Norman, in which an equivalent to our “błȧn ménleu” still exists today as “bllànc murlu” (together with “marguerite”, which corresponds to our “márgerite”), the most usual meaning of the name is “oxeye daisy”, but never “common daisy”, which is in Guernsey Norman known only as “berbiette” or “berbillaette”, a name completely unknown in Sark. This generally does not apply to Jèrriais, in which the concept of “daisy” differs – confusingly, “lawn daisies” in Jersey Norman are actually called “mèrgots”, which is a diminutive form of “marguerite”, again unknown in Sarkese.

photo source: wikimedia

Despite a possible historic use and the current use in some varieties of Guernsey Norman, in Sarkese, the use of “błȧn ménleu” in the meaning of “oxeye daisy” instead of “márgerite” has been confirmed as inacceptable through many consultations with our last speakers and semi-speakers, if they distinguish daisies activelly. Moreover, the mention of “márgerite” (as ‘marguerite’) in one of the famous notes of “Élŷ Brévîn“, a 17th century minister of Sark, indicates rather a use of the word in today’s meaning in his days.

With respect to our last speakers, it is therefore recommended to follow their traditional nomenclature, with “márgerite” meanining primarely “oxeye daisy”. like in English, German or French, and “błȧn ménleu” only “common daisy”.

On the origin – or which daisy was first, white or yellow?

No matter the actual flower it refers to in one’s idiolect (one’s personal language) today or in the past, be it “common daisy” or “oxeye daisy”, “błȧn ménleu” has always refered to “white daisy-like weed”. The adjective white, “błȧn”, is added to the word “ménleu” in order to distinguish this “white daisy” from the proper “ménleu”-daisy, which actually is (surprise, surprise!) yellow, as the original bearer of the the ancient Gallo-Romance name “ménleu” is “jòne ménleu“, known as “corn daisy” or “corn marigold” in English, in Sark English “yellow daisy”.

photo source: wikimedia

The reason, why “corn marigold” and “lawn daisy” share the name is simple – they both belong to the Asteraceae family of daisies looking similar in appearence, with the main difference being the colour of their petal leaves. Nevertheless, one plant looks sometimes even more alike to “corn marigold”, and that is “oxeye daisy”, which is why in many languages, f.e. in some varieties of Guernsey Norman, as said above, in the three main Scandinavian languages, Danish, Swedish and Norweigen, but even in Czech, it is corn marigold and oxeye daisy that share one name. Moreover, in these languages, the name is (unlike in many other languages) never used for “lawn daisies”. Only Sarkese, at least today, seems to relate “lawn daisies” with “corn marigold”. With the regard to the logic of the nomenclature in the given languagues and to what P. Brasseur documented in the 70s of the 20th century, see above, the historical use for “blan ménleu” for “oxeye daisy”, though not recommended with respect to our last speakers, thus wouldn’t be surprising.

Anyhow, in Modern Sarkese, the general meaning of “ménleu”, said even without any specifications of colour, inclines more to “white-flowering weed” rather than to the original yellow “corn daisy”, which is usually called “jòne ménleu“, with the adjective “yellow” being almost always mentionned, so some semi-speakers actually know the word “ménleu” only from the compound name “jòne ménleu”. Moreover, under “ménleu” we include today any white flowers really, not only daisies, especially those without traditional names such as sea campions (“ménleu á věsŷ“), which look very different to both the original bearer of the name, yellow corn daisy, but even any white daisy with which they share only the white colour of their flowers.

The name “ménleu” itself, has the most intriguing origin, meaning “yellow-” or “honey-coloured” in old Romance and Celtic, possibly preserving the original name of corn daisy in the two ancient languages (to learn more see the SNDO entry “jòne ménleu“). Interestingly though, Sarkese is the only known language in Northern France, we know of, in which due to the broading of the meaning the word for corn marigold covers not only lawn daisies, but any other small white flowering weeds.


Citation: NEUDÖRFL, Martin. błȧn ménleu/common daisy. In: Sark Norman Dictionary Online [on-line]. https://www.bonjhur.net/sndo-vocab-flora-menleu-blan

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