I always thought the word dandelion was based on dandy lions. Like the flowers were little lions, dressed in green finery. But while reading this article about the way that South Miami has developed its own dialect, I read about the origins of the word.
Take "dandelion." This flower grows in central Europe, and when the Germans realized they didn't have a word for it, they looked to botany books written in Latin, where it was called dens lionis, or "lion's tooth." The Germans borrowed that concept and named the flower "Löwenzahn" – a literal translation of "lion's tooth." The French didn't have a word for the flower, so they too borrowed the concept of "lion's tooth," calquing it as "dent de lion." The English, also not having a word for this flower, heard the French term without understanding it, and borrowed it, adapting "dent de lion" into English, calling it "dandelion."
For better or worse, I'll never look at a dandelion the same way again.
By the way, the rest of the article is interesting. It describes the way English speakers have incorporated Spanish language structure and meaning into their spoken dialogue. Examples:
- "We got down from the car and went inside."
- "I made the line to pay for groceries."
- "He made a party to celebrate his son's birthday."
- "Alex got married with José"
- "Thanks God"