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January 07, 2009


Dear Mr. Barry,
I need help from Mr. Language Person. I am a grammar stickler and sports fan. Can you explain references to "The Toronto Maple Leafs"? I would like to know why the team members are not called "Leaves." Thank you.
Your fan,

Dear Christine --
The answer is actually quite fascinating. As you are no doubt aware if you have visited Wikipedia and used the cut-and-paste function, Maples are variously classified in a family of their own, the Aceraceae, or (together with the Hippocastanaceae) included in the family Sapindaceae. Modern classifications, including the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification, favour inclusion in Sapindaceae. Also, the hockey community does not contain a lot of rocket scientists in the grammar department. I hope this clears everything up.
Mr. Language Person


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Damn you, Mr. Language Person!

*gouges eyes out*

Unnecessary use of Barry Manilow. 10 yard penalty!

What the puck?

You've redeemed yourself with the Jack Bauer photo.

*super glues eyes back*

Toronto has a hockey team? who gnu?

(says the guy who lives in the Toronto area and was there the last time that they won the Stanley Cup in 1967)

I thought the "APG" was one of the companies our brilliant leaders bailed out.

Preview, preview, preview. Let this be a lesson.

*Waves @ Siouxie!!!*

He eats chutes, he scores!

*WAVES @ Hammie!!!*

Yes, indeed.

*raises eyebrows quizzically*

"rocket scientists in the grammar department..."?

*continues looking confused but acquiesces to the expertise of Mr. Language Person™.*

Another hockey puzzler. Many years ago, a Maine Senator named Ed Muskie (also the name of a fish) reportedly laughed at a reference made by a campaign aide to the word Canuck. This was supposed to be bad because Canuck was a pejorative term for Americans of French-Canadian descent. Well, things got blown all out of proportion, and Muskie did poorly in the New Hampshire primary as a result.

Then Vancouver decided to call its hockey team the Canucks.

I would point out that the city of Vancouver also never has won the New Hampshire primary, and no, the fish's name is not Ed -- that was the horse -- but Muskie.

Is that perfectly clear?

Bravo Meanie.

one night a year all trees can talk
and move , and dance , and sing
they all meet at a restaurant
and share what news they bring
some there are the evergreens
their foliage on display
while others flaunt their nakedness
some straight, and others gay
but just like people, they all have flaws
they have their own pet peeves
they hate it that ere the check comes
the toronto maple leaves!

It's been a long time since we've heard from Mister Language Person! Welcome back!


Dave said "angiosperm."

*SNORK* @ ogden nash insom!!!

*is SOOOOO grateful for rollover features. no need for brain bleach today!*

Outstanding, Insom!

Leafs was considered to be a tougher sounding name than Leaves. Sad, embarrassing, but true. Go Leafs go! And take the Raptors with you!

PP....should it be "Raptoves" ?

*SNORK* Jazzzz!!

Actually, the use of Maple Leaf is figurative, so it takes the regular ending, not the specialized (or specialised, as they say north of the Great Lakes) ending. This is why your favo(u)rite ballplayer flied out to center (hit a fly ball) instead of flew out to center (propelled himself through the air). Christmas decorations and framed pictures are hung, whereas murderers and framed cattle rustlers are hanged.

The plural of Walkman is Walkman Personal Stereos, and only Tolkien gets to have dwarves (Carl Sagan and Snow White have their dwarfs).

And until recently, Montréal's hockey team was officially the Canadien.

But I'm still wondering about the singular forms: Konerko is a White Sox, but Ortiz is a Red So>.

Good thing they aren't called the Fig Leafs.

I had no idea that cattle rustlers were suitable for framing.

I notice that Mr. Language Person apparently did not take into consideration, the fact that many of those responsible for the naming of teams speak Canadian ...

(and ... NICE work, insom! I miss his frivolity with the language ... )

Gentle Bloglit,

It can be a terribly frustrating experience to be both a grammar stickler and a sports fan. Perhaps you should keep your stick on the ice and be a fan of politics instead.

That said, I think it best to take Canadians with a grain of salt. (I like them best with a little arugula tossed with a light vinaigrette.)

As Red Green says,"keep your stick on the ice".

The three phases of hockey:

The Toronto Maple leafs.

The Toronto Maple Leaves.

The Toronto Maple Left.

Didn't the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group open for the Stones in '68?...

I think ron hit the nail on the head. Too many possible bad jokes if you name your team the "Leaves".

Especially when they do as well as the Toronto hockey team has in, oh, the past forty-five years or so.

Angiosperm recapitulates (chloro)phylogeny, Allen?

About as many gramarians as guys with a full set of teeth.

How, exactly, does one discover he has this talent? Not that I want to see the instructional video.


On "Réseau des sports" (RDS - the French Canadian ESPN) and "Radio-Canada" (national French Canadian television station) they still say "Le Canadien (singular) de Montréal"... not "Les Canadiens (plural) de Montréal".

We are a very liberal Habs household. My daughter is allowed to remain engaged to her fiancé, the Leafs fan.

Insom, that is simply brilliant. Thanks.

Thanks, oneblankspace, for the proper usage of hanged versus hung. I thought I was the only one that cared.

BTW, what is the right time to use "that," as in "He said he was a communist." or "He said that he was a communist." Or, "He said he drank only two beers" or "He said that he drank only two beers." This is not to imply that communists are or should be beer drinkers.

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