Sunday, May 8, 2011


Happy Mother's Day, everyone! In celebration, I'm going to profile a name that is very dear to both me and my mother.

My maternal grandmother's name was Gladys Mildred. She always hated it. My great-grandmother Mercedes and great-grandfather Pedro gave all of their children "normal American" names so that they would "fit in" (they were from Puerto Rico originally). But my abuelita always wished that she was given a Spanish name. So Gladys often went by her nickname Gladiola, after her favorite flower.

The meaning of the word gladiola (pronounced "glah-dee-OH-lah") isn't as dainty as one would think. Gladiola is the feminine form of Gladiolus, a Latin name meaning "little sword." It was given to the plant because the flowers grow on tall stalks, which makes them look like little swords. The flower is believed to symbolize strength and integrity, but also infatuation.

Gladioli originate in warm climates like the Mediterranean, tropical and South Africa, and Asia, but manage to do fairly well in temperate areas like America and Britain too. They come in a wide variety of colors: red, pink, light purple, orange, and white. Historically, the British used the gladiola to treat a variety of physical ailments. They would use the stem base as a poultice to drive out thorns and splinters. They would also grind the stem base, mix it with goat milk, and feed it to infants in order to cure the symptoms of colic. However, if you plan on using this plant medicinally, use extreme caution. Parts of the plant are poisonous when ingested, or may cause skin irritation when handled.

Having adopted a culture that really values women and motherhood, the idea of honoring the mother of my mother is appealing to me. But it would make no sense to honor a daughter while my abuelita's name when the original Gladys didn't feel honored to have it. Gladiola, on the other hand, is beautiful. I'm surprised that Gladiola isn't really included as a flower name for little girls.

The name Gladiola sounds...well, glad and happy. And the flower is gorgeous. But despite the flowery reference, I think a little Gladiola might grow up to be a little gladiator. It's a really strong feminine name. Strong yet spunky. What's not to love?


Image Credit:
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1 comment:

  1. Dame Edna Everage (a character played by a genius Barry Humphries) always finishes her shows handing them out (man she is ballsy & spunky LOL) perfect & her (his) words are like little satirical swords!


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