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Monday, 27 March 2017

Spot the Frippet: raffia.

All right, all right, the real reason the word raffia is featuring on The Word Den is that I've just discovered that the scientific name of the raffia palm was until quite recently Raphia ruffia, and I want to share the joy of it this Monday morning.

No, really, it's my pleasure.

The leaf veins of the raffia palm (now, apparently, called Raphia taedigera, (though all delight is not lost because its fruit is still called an uxi nut)) yield a useful sort of stringy stuff, used as, well, string, but it's also woven and knotted and knitted together to make decorative (occasionally) items for the home (a source of delight to me ever since an imaginary body called The Country Crafts and Folklore Council was described in the BBC TV comedy series Yes Minister as the Raffia Mafia...and anyone who's ever been to any ordinarily competitive mothers' coffee morning will laugh, too).

You might find raffia around the pace in the form of baskets, hats or shoes. It's favoured for tying up plants in the garden, too.

The raffia palm:

Raphia australis.jpg
Photo by Andrew Massyn (Kirstenbosch Gardens Cape Town, Public Domain,

is grown in Madagascar, Tropical Africa, and Central and South America. This might be rather a long way away from where you live, but the stuff is probably to be found in your local garden shed or handicraft shop, or in a placemat near you.

Mind you, if you're in Bandundu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, you might be able to get yourself a Munganji suit made of raffia to dance in.

No one will have the slightest trouble spotting raffia then.

photo by By Nick Hobgood (Flickr [1], CC BY 2.0,

Spot the Frippet: raffia (or raphia). This word comes to us from from Malagasy. 

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