Flour - flower

From Hull AWE
Jump to: navigation, search

Flour and flower are homophones - both are pronounced to rhyme with 'our', 'shower' and 'power' - IPA: /flaʊər/. The spellings were interchangeable in Early Modern English, but are now kept for different meanings.

  • Flour is the product of milling cereals, most usually wheat, to the consistency of powder. It is the basic ingredient of bread, pasta, cakes, pastry and biscuits.
  • A flower is the first reproductive structure of a plant. It consists of stamens and pistils, in a covering formed of the corolla (of units called petals) and calyx (of units called sepals). Not all of these are present in all species, and the terminology varies. The flowers of plants cultivated for gardens and use in house decoration have interestingly and attractively coloured corollas (petals), and smell attractive to the human nose - an incidental by-product of the function of flowers in nature to attract insects.
    • Figuratively, the "flower [of a group]" is the best member(s) of it, 'the pick of the bunch'. This is used in such phrases as "the flower of chivalry", or "he was the flower of courtesy". In phrases such as "in her flower", it means 'at the best moment [of beauty, strength, vigour, mental powers etc]'. Here the same image is better expressed by 'bloom': for example, 'in the bloom of youth' and 'she was in full bloom'. There is also the verb 'to blossom', as in 'under the new teacher, the class blossomed'.

You may also like to see the more detailed note on cornflour and cornflower, the distinction between which follows exactly the same rule.

It is an etymological oddity that flour is derived from flower: originally, it was 'the best of the product of milling', 'the white powder that has been "bolted" (sieved) to be separate from the bran, or other, coarser, meal'.
      • Beware that the (rare) homograph flower (pronounced with the vowel of 'blow' and 'note', IPA: /ˈfləʊ ər/) is a derivative of the verb 'to flow'.