If you follow my work on Flickr, you may remember this silly, play-on-words piece:
Well, the dreadful pun has resurfaced on the latest page of On Being Soft, albeit with an alternate spelling.
In this page, I am exploring "being soft" as perceived as a negative quality. "S/he's a bit soft" is a synonym for "wet", "drippy", ineffectual.
I'd been given a couple of linen scraps on which were stitched gorgeous studies of flowers by my ever-generous Granny, and began to think of how many flower-related idioms amount to meaning the same thing as "a bit soft".
I began listing these: delicate flower, pansy, shrinking violet, lily-livered, weed.
I decided to present a series of embroidered flowers on the page as if they were botanical studies, accompanied by these rather derogatory terms instead of their Latin names. And what could serve as a title for the page? "Melancholyflowers"!
(In a happy coincidence, I recently learnt from Andrew Solomon's book The Noonday Demon: An Anatomy of Depression that the ancient Greeks believed cauliflower to be a cure for melancholy;"Chrysippus of Cnidus believed that the answer to depression was the consumption of more cauliflower".)
For the "delicate flower", I chose one of the samplers completed by my Granny's friend. The remainder of the flowers are hand-embroidered by me.
This isn't the best photograph, but it's "pansy" (in simpering pink, of course) illustrated by, well, a pansy. Interestingly, as well as being homophobic, the term pansy can also mean a "weak, effeminate, and often cowardly man", similarly to "lily-livered". However, I've also heard it used to refer to women, for example, er, myself. Apparently a couple of years back a highstreet men's fashion chain was selling a t-shirt emblazoned with the word "pansy", reclaiming the word as a badge of honour!
In Why Do Violets Shrink?: Answers to 280 Thorny Questions on the World of Plants by Caroline Holmes, we learn that the Sweet Violet shrinks away from insects which try to access its pollen. A "shrinking violet" is of course an incredibly timid person.
In the Middle Ages, the liver was believed to be the seat of courage. A pale, "lily-coloured" liver would be one with no blood, and thus courage, in it; thus, lily-livered.
This is one of my favourite pages so far, and a little self-deprecating dig at myself for being all of the above!