Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

To Weed or Not to Weed, that is the Question Asked About Dandelions and Clovers by Home Gardeners on Reddit

To Weed or Not to Weed, that is the Question Asked About Dandelions and Clovers by Home Gardeners on Reddit

A.G. Woody

The two groupings of plants known as dandelions and clovers are currently classified in common English language gardening discourse as weeds, despite having no biological differences from their so-called flower counterparts. Despite this apparent categorization, a trend supporting the rebranding of dandelions and clovers has slowly been taking root in many online home-gardening communities, one of which can be found on reddit.com under the handle r/gardening. As both this trend and the use of online forums such as reddit.com for observations and analysis are relatively recent, there is a lack of information and data regarding the change in the conversation about weeds in online home-gardening communities. This paper, therefore, examines the discourse surrounding dandelions and clovers as weeds through four r/gardening posts to show one popular and one lesser opinion for both dandelions and clovers that utilize multiple linguistics strategies such as animacy and lack thereof, metaphor-based rhetoric, and discontinuities in phrasing and word choice that either denote or promote these plants as weeds. The analysis of these posts shows that the more popular opinion has shifted from the old way of classifying dandelions and clovers as cruel and invasive weeds to recognizing them as beautiful and intentional flowers that hold agency and support local ecosystems.

April 20, 2022 - Posted by | abstract

2 Comments »

  1. I am glad that you took up a discussion so close to home.
    The rebranding of dandelions and clover not only from weed to flower but as agency holders of local ecosystems is an important tribute to climate change and waste avoidance. I agree with your conclusion, not only because your abstract highlights a sound argument, but dandelions and clover are delicious components of various foods as well.
    In this respect, and as a dandelion honey maker, I enjoyed reading your post. I hope many gardeners rethink their approach of calling something a ‘weed’ and instead reframe it as a seasonal ‘backyard treat’.

    Comment by Alexa Ruhfass | April 20, 2022 | Reply

  2. I love the play on a Shakespeare quote in your title. I was unaware that clovers were considered to be a weed! We found them to be quite important as our chickens absolutely loved eating them. Very interesting topic!

    Comment by Casey Carter | April 28, 2022 | Reply


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