Alyssum

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The plant name alyssum, which has variously been written alisson, alison and alysson, is stressed differently in British and American English.

  • In British RP, the stress falls on the first syllable: AL-iss-erm {{IPA|'æl ɪ səm}.
  • In US GA, the stress falls on the second syllable: 'al-ISS-erm',/æ'lɪsəm/, sometimes with lengthening of the second vowel: 'a-LEES-erm', /æ 'liː səm/.
    • The plural of alyssum is either the (rather pedantic) Latin alyssa, or the preferable, more English, alyssums.
Etymological note: alyssum is now usually the name of several common garden plants. These, along with their wild relatives, are mostly members of the genus Alyssum, although two of the commonest cultivated species have now been assigned to different genera: Aurinia saxatilis and Lobularia maritima, or Alyssum maritimum, whose common English name is 'sweet alyssum' or 'sweet alison'. The name was taken from classical Greek via Latin. Writers such as Dioscorides, Galen, and Pliny the Elder used the word, coined from the Greek privative prefix ἀ (a-) 'without' and λύσσα (lussa) 'madness', specifically 'rabies', to cover a variety of plants thought to cure rabies: the precise species they meant have not been confidently identified. There is no sign that they even belonged to the genus to which Linnaeus applied the name.
Gerard's Herball links alyssum to the plant traditionally called, in English, Madwoort or Moonewoort (atropa belladonna, or one of the horehounds, perhaps Marrubium vulgare or Marrubium alysson (an obsolete name)), saying that it "is called..of the Latines [i.e. in Latin] Alyssum: in English Galens Madwoort: of some Heale dog; and it hath the name thereof, bicause it is a present remedie for them that are bitten of a mad dog" (II 380, cited OED).