Are the sunny marigolds that have seeded themselves along my garden wall weeds? Our builder thought so, presumably, as he carefully dug them all up, but luckily more have emerged, shining like cheerful little suns through the English December murk.
photo by H. Zell
Mind you, they annoy at least one of our neighbours rather a lot.
What about weeds on a larger scale? Is the unmown grass round the hoardings full of weeds or wild flowers?
photo by Chris Palmer
Is the area a nature reserve or waste land?
Can we call that metre-tall ash tree that's sprung up from nowhere (as ash trees do) a weed, or are weeds by definition little scraggly things that don't threaten to block out all available light and cause serious damage to the foundations of the house?
Some weeds, however, everyone can agree on. The weed is, or used to be, tobacco; weed without the the may well be marijuana; if the weed is walking then it's probably either a thin, small and weak sort of a person, or a similar kind of a horse.
A widow's weeds are the black mourning clothes widows used to wear, poor things:
painting of Olivia by Edmund Leighton
and a weed used to be a black band worn as a sign of mourning.
Before that, weeds used to be clothes of any kind, but nowadays that's just confusing to everyone.
Mourning clothes have gone out of fashion, luckily, so this Spot the Frippet will have to be one of the other kinds.
Have fun deciding what counts.
Spot the frippet: weed. The plant word comes from the Old English weod and is related to the Old High German wiota, fern. The mourning word comes from the Old English wǣd.