A bunch of flowers & a posy of flowers

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lapdwicks

Senior Member
Sinhala
Dear all,

Please explain the difference between A bunch of flowers & a posy of flowers to me. (Not by pictures. By some description.)

And also some explanation on "a bouquet".

Thanks.
 
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    There isn't a whole lot of difference between these two in practice. You can talk about a "bunch" of carrots/grapes/bananas/keys/people etc.

    "Posy" refers only to flowers, and it's a rather small bunch - like the kind a bridesmaid might hold at a wedding. It's a little "twee", I think, to talk of "posies". If you are male and not a florist, I would advise you not to talk about them at all.

    A "bouquet", again, refers to flowers or florists' materials (unless it's used metaphorically). It suggests something larger than a "posy".
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I think a posy is a very small bunch. Exactly as velisarius has described. I think these days is suggests a level of arrangement that a bunch does not convey, a sort of tidy little 1/2 moon of flowers. Why have you asked us not to use photos, it would be easier!

    A bunch of flowers is definitely NOT arranged.
     

    lapdwicks

    Senior Member
    Sinhala
    There isn't a whole lot of difference between these two in practice. You can talk about a "bunch" of carrots/grapes/bananas/keys/people etc.

    "Posy" refers only to flowers, and it's a rather small bunch - like the kind a bridesmaid might hold at a wedding. It's a little "twee", I think, to talk of "posies". If you are male and not a florist, I would advise you not to talk about them at all.

    A "bouquet", again, refers to flowers or florists' materials (unless it's used metaphorically). It suggests something larger than a "posy".
    I think a posy is a very small bunch. Exactly as velisarius has described. I think these days is suggests a level of arrangement that a bunch does not convey, a sort of tidy little 1/2 moon of flowers. Why have you asked us not to use photos, it would be easier!

    A bunch of flowers is definitely NOT arranged.
    Thanks a lot.

    And..... I specially asked you not to use photos because I want somebody to identify those things as I describe them.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Ok - so are you clear on bouquet? That would usually denote some floral arrangement, bigger than a posy and definitely more "arranged" than just a bunch. It has a strong association with the notion of a gift, a celebration or a reward and the size goes up to match that. Often a bouquet of flowers covers the entire upper body of the recipient in a big fan shape of floral drama! There is usually some ribbon and / or fancy wrapping involved too.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I can't remember ever hearing anyone in American English use "posy" to mean a small bunch of flowers, just the individual flower sense and then usually in plural. An older person might jocularly refer to the posies growing in the field or something like that.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I can't remember ever hearing anyone in American English use "posy" to mean a small bunch of flowers, just the individual flower sense and then usually in plural. An older person might jocularly refer to the posies growing in the field or something like that.
    This amused me, because I have just been assailed by an ancient memory of reading about a posy in the classic American novel, Little Women, a memory which must date from well over 40 years ago - so I went to look and my memory serves me well!

    Here's your posy, Mother! Laurie never forgets that, she said, putting the fresh nosegay in the vase that stood in `Marmee's corner', and was kept supplied by the affectionate boy.
    Little Women, Louisa May Alcott: The text by chapter

    So maybe you are just too young to know of this use, Myridon.
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    I'm not sure how old Myridon is, but I'm 54, and I've never heard "posy" to mean a group of flowers either. (I was about to question your choice of quote, suzi, but I searched first, and I discovered that "nosegay" also refers to more than one flower. I don't think I've ever used "nosegay" before, but if I had, I would have used it wrong; I thought it meant one flower!)
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I dont suppose any of us date back to the era of Little Women, so my age-related comment was not entirely serious ;)
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I'm not sure how old Myridon is, but I'm 54, and I've never heard "posy" to mean a group of flowers either. (I was about to question your choice of quote, suzi, but I searched first, and I discovered that "nosegay" also refers to more than one flower. I don't think I've ever used "nosegay" before, but if I had, I would have used it wrong; I thought it meant one flower!)
    I'm familiar with the word "nosegay" although I don't think I've heard it used in a real conversation that didn't involve a florist or a wedding planner. I'm not familiar with this use of "posy" even though I'm sure I read Little Women about 40 years ago. When you're reading a novel with lots of "antique" language, knowing that "posy" is "flower" is sufficient to not stop and wonder if it means something else in that sentence (especially if you have a book report due the next day). It's not impossible that it could mean that Marmee only asked for a flower, but Laurie brought her a nosegay anyway.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    It is not very likely that the Little Women thing has anything to so with a single flower.

    The definition of posy in the OED is:
    a. A small bunch of flowers, freq. for holding in the hand or wearing as an ornament; a nosegay or small bouquet. Also fig.
    Its use dates back to the 16th C in the UK. There are citations from the late 20thC. I guess words like this are used by those who"need" to use them and go under the radar of people who have no need of these terms - wedding planners being the usual suspects, I agree.

    I do not have access to an academic equivalent dictionary to date the use of posy for a single flower in the US.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I thought you were referring to when you read it, not when LMA wrote it!
    Well it was a bit of both ... obviously the original use is quite dated now.
    I don't know how often read this book is these days, I loved it as a kid, and cannot believe I pulled that memory out ... ( I am older than you, pob, slightly ...
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    It's been a good fifty years since I read Little Women (and its sequels), but I'm familiar with "posy" as a small bouquet.

    Google Books finds the word four times in Little Women:
    • "Here's your posy, mother! Laurie never forgets that," she said, putting the fresh nosegay in the vase....
    • "They are lovely! But Beth's roses are sweeter to me," said Mrs March, smelling the half-dead posy in her belt.
    • "I'll do my best to gratify you, sir," was Laurie's unusually dutiful reply, as he carefully unpinned the posy Jo had pinned in his button-hole.
    The first is clearly a bunch; the other two appear to be single flowers. The fourth (which I haven't quoted) gives no clue as to which it means.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It is not very likely that the Little Women thing has anything to so with a single flower.
    What I mean is that if you ask for an egg, someone might hand you a full carton of 12 eggs and say "Here's your egg." Handing someone a bouquet satisfies their request for one flower. The sentence doesn't make me think "Hey, that doesn't make sense. I should look up "posy" in the dictionary." Since reading this thread, I now see that "posy" = "nosegay" in the sentence, but it never would have occurred to me that there was a problem with my assumption that "posy" = "one flower."
     
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