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Friday, April 22, 2011

It's a Daisy!

Man's Best Flower Friend
by Tom King (c) 2011

Daisies have long symbolized simple beauty, innocence, loyal love and purity. Patches of daisies form carpets of white blossoms over green hills and valleys every spring. They tell us when spring has sprung and disappear when “fall has fell”. The perky daisy inspires poems, determines whether or not we are loved and lends its name to babies, puppies, sour cream, Girl Scouts and BB guns. When we are dead we push them up. When something is good, it's a daisy! Always cheerful, always glad to see us, the epitome of loyalty and unconditional love, daisies are the hound dogs of the flower world and as spring has definitely sprung here in the south, I though it might be fun to take a look at our relationship with the humble daisy..

The Symbolic Daisy
Daisies supply the world's poets with a handy metaphor for simple beauty. Poets as varied as William Shakespeare, Robert Burns, William Carlos Williams and Dylan Thomas sprinkle their works with daisies whenever they want to show innocence, simplicity, purity or unpretentious beauty. Hardly a poet worth his salt has not borrowed the daisy at some time or other to perk up his verse. Marjorie Pickthall's “Daisy Time” is typical and has two of my favorite lines about daisies in it – the first one and the last one.

Daisy Time
by Marjorie Pickthall

See, the grass is full of stars,
Fallen in their brightness;
Hearts they have of shining gold,
Rays of shining whiteness.

Buttercups have honeyed hearts,
Bees they love the clover,
But I love the daisies' dance
All the meadow over.

Blow, O blow, you happy winds,
Singing summer's praises,
Up the field and down the field
A-dancing with the daisies.

Girl Scout Daisies

Girl Scouts ages five to seven years old are called Daisy Scouts. The Daisies are named after Juliette Gordon Lowe, the founder of the Girl Scout movement whose nickname was Daisy. The Daisy Scout program has four fundamental goals:

1. To encourage girls to develop their full potential.
2. To relate to others with increasing understanding, skill and respect.
3. To develop meaningful values to guide their actions and provide for sound decision-making.
4. To contribute to the improvement of society.

What better goals could a Daisy have?


My two Daisys
The name “Daisy” pops up a lot in literature. Often the name “Daisy” is given to a character with distinctly undaisy-like qualities. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's “Great Gatsby”, Daisy Buchanan, Gatsby's love interest is an illusion of perfection. Gatsby sees a daisy. Unfortunately, Miss Buchanan, herself, possesses some rather distinct un-daisylike flaws. Henry James' Daisy Miller is a flower in full bloom. She has no inhibitions in sharp contrast with the European gentlemen lined up to court her, hence the value of the name in setting the story. The Oscar-winning film and stage play, “Driving Miss Daisy” mined its humor from the contrast between herself and Hoke, Miss Daisy's African-American driver. Hoke is a patient optimist, relentlessly cheerful, a wise and simple man and therefore far more daisy-like than the prickly, elderly, sharp-tongued, pessimist that Miss Daisy appears when the story begins. Again, the name Daisy contrasts with the character in a way that advances the story. The daisy is a symbolic staple that will likely be explored many more time before the poets and novelists, playrights and screen-writers are done with it.

Brand Names

The inimitable Daisy has lent its name to everything from cottage cheese to air rifles. Daisy Brands began producing Daisy dairy products in 1920. Since then the company has grown to a nationally recognized brand. Daisy's manufacturing plant moved from Chicago to Texas after the Chicago plant burned down in 1972.

But, the Daisy name hasn't just graced cups of sour cream and cottage cheese. Another daisy brand, Daisy Outdoor Products has been the largest maker of airguns and accessories for more than 120 years. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Plymouth Iron Windmill Company, manufactured windmills in Plymouth, Michigan. Inventor Clarence Hamilton sold the company on a new invention in 1886 - a gun-like device that could fire a lead ball with compressed air. Seeing a demonstration of the new air gun, company president, Lewis Cass Hough, exclaimed, "Boy, Clarence, that's a daisy!"

The rest is history.

The Plymouth Iron Windmill Company began making Daisy BB guns and soon gave up the windmills, changing its name to Daisy Manufacturing Company on January 26, 1895. It acquired other air gun manufacturers over the years and with the introduction of its famed Red Ryder BB Gun in 1940 soon became the leading manufacturer of air rifles and guns in the United States. Based in Rogers, Arkansas, Daisy also produces paintball guns and equipment, archery equipment and small caliber firearms.


Everybody knows the daisy is the proper flower for divining whether the object of your affection truly loves you or not. The daisy probably acquired its status because of its many petals. As you pluck petals, chanting “She loves me, she loves me not,” you want rather a lot of petals so there is at least some suspense to the matter. If you used a dogwood flower, you'd know right from the beginning what the answer would be, even if you have only the most rudimentary of math skills. The daisy adds some dramatic tension. Has this one lost some of its petals? How many petals does a daisy have anyway? I can never remember. The “She loves me/she loves me not” game comes from France (where else), originating as a children's game. The witch community has adopted the game as a legitimate spell-casting to get a magical yes/no answer to your burning questions! Of course they also use M&Ms* for the same purpose, so I wouldn't worry too much about any dark magic being attached to daisies.


The daisy's name is a contraction of the Anglo Saxon words “daes eage” or “day's eye” ostensibly because daisies “open their eyes” at dawn. Synonymous with optimism and happiness, daisies come in dozens of varieties, all of them possessing the characteristic simple lasting beauty of the species. One of the more inexpensive flowers available at your local florist, daisies say “I love you” without pretension and what could be more better than that? Unlike a single rose which has more sexual overtones, giving your lady love a single daisy tells her she gives you joy, that she brightens your day or that she makes you happy. In my opinion a daisy is much better at getting and keeping you out of trouble than roses. If you go for roses, you're obviously reacting because you're in real trouble and need to obviously spend some money to dig your way out.

Take my advice, if you want to make her smile send her a daisy. Better yet, send her a whole bunch of daisies once in a while. Nothing says pure, simple unconditional love than a daisy!

Tom King
* Don't ask me to describe the M&M's incantation as I do not wish to encourage chocaholics to dabble in the dark arts. I will say that you probably want to use a small bag of the candy if you are at all concerned about your diet! That's all I'm saying.


800 Florals: Flower Meanings
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Charles Scribner's & Sons, 1953
On-Line Literature: Daisy Miller by Henry James
Daisy Scouts: What Are Daisy Scouts
Daisy Outdoor Products: History
Daisy Brand: The Daisy Story
IMDB: Driving Miss Daisy

The Poetry Foundation

Friday, April 01, 2011

"Heeeeee's back!"

(c) 2011 by Tom King

James Carville's been popping up to comment in the news a lot lately (albeit only in America and largely in the political world, but with potentially devestating consequences for taxpayers).  I'm struck again by his uncanny resemblance to another recently returned public figure (albeit only in Britain and largely in the wizarding world but with potentially devestating consequences for Muggles).