There’s Violet and Iris, Lily and Rose. So why not this botanical pick?
Thanks to Sophie for suggesting Dahlia as Name of the Day.
At first glance, Dahlia seems like a straightforward floral appellation. The perennial got her name courtesy of Swedish botanist Anders Dahl. Dahl didn’t name the bloom himself – instead, the director of a Madrid garden christened them in the 1800s, shortly after Dahl’s death.
Anders tripped over his future namesake in Mexico. Three dozen species flourish throughout Central America; oodles of hybrids have been cultivated. The Aztecs grew them back in the day.
As a name, Dahlia has something of a Victoriana vibe. In the early 20th century, British author P.G. Wodehouse bestowed the name on a character in his Jeeves and Wooster series. Dahlia Travers is Bertie Wooster’s “good aunt,” though she still manages to get him into all sorts of scrapes, often involving a sterling silver cow creamer. (You’ll have to read the series to understand – and to appreciate Jeeves’ ability to unravel a sticky situation.)
While dahlias come in many shades, there’s no such thing as blue – even today, the color does not appear in the official classification charts of The American Dahlia Society. And so the phrase “blue dahlia” means something impossible. In 1946, Raymond Chandler penned The Blue Dahlia, a film starring Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd. Lake plays a character called Joyce – the Blue Dahlia is a nightclub.
There’s also an Arabic and Hebrew name that’s just one letter different: Dalia. She’s still botanical, but in this case, Dalia is related to the word for a grapevine or olive branch.
One more Dalia of note: in Lithuanian mythology, Dalia is a goddess, associated with weaving and, naturally, fate.
Regardless of source, the common English pronunciation is DAHL yah. But drop the “h” and a few sources will suggest the three-syllable da LEE ah.
All of this makes for a sweet little floral moniker, with a nicely pan-global vibe and a sort of British gentility all at once.
But then there’s the Black Dahlia. And all of a sudden, this simple flower leans Goth.
While she wasn’t known by the name in life, the ill-fated Elizabeth Short is remembered to history as the Black Dahlia, the victim of a gruesome, unsolved murder from 1947 Los Angeles. The nickname was apparently a play on the Raymond Chandler movie title. While it is tempting to dismiss the reference as old news, the most recent film version of the story was just 2006.
Dahlia would be right at home with our gardens of girls. She’s a bit fussier than Lily and frillier than Violet. The nickname Dolly makes her wearable for even a small child. (Though the spelling is a stretch.) And while she appears in the US Top 1000, she’d only reached as high as #745 in 2008. Variant Dalia stood at #920. So while she could climb, for the moment, she’s still underused.
Dahlia is pretty, polished. sophisticated and surprisingly dark. It’s an interesting option for a daughter.