"Cactus plant"

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Eebster the Great
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"Cactus plant"

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:24 pm UTC

Has anyone else seen this apparently redundant phrase? To me, a cactus is a type of succulent, specifically a desert plant, and I assumed these were known almost everywhere. The phrase "cactus plant" seems as silly as "dog animal" or "mushroom fungus." But I've seen the exact phrase "cactus plant" or "cactus plants" three times now and I'm starting to doubt my sanity.

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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby speising » Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:32 pm UTC

to avoid discussion of the plural of cactus?

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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby freezeblade » Wed Jun 13, 2018 3:03 pm UTC

Cacti
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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby Soupspoon » Wed Jun 13, 2018 3:11 pm UTC

I have a feeling that cactus as a mass (many plants) is a common-enough thing. Like bracken or brambles. If you therefore cultivate a cactus, or a countably low number of them, it's/they're considered a plant (or plants) and not an undifferentiatable patch of cactusness. ("A bramble" is indeed a thing, but I'm not sure that's often anything but assumption.)

Sometimes singulars are singularly unusual, and is the one that gets the less efficient name. c.f. Welsh for birds = "adar", bird = "adaryn", though there may be other reasons behind that. But in English there's also "sand" vs "sand grain"/"grain of sand" and (unless you're one of those people who are wrong!) "lego¹" is a multiple of "lego piece/brick/whatever"


Alternatively, dealing with the succulant "flesh" of a cactus, we're using cactus for a lump (say in cooking) and "cactus plant" is like a "beef animal". Although that's a more off the wall explanation that I have far less confidence in.


¹ With or without the corporately-ordained capitilisation, ™, etc.

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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby ucim » Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:23 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:The phrase "cactus plant" seems as silly as "dog animal" or "mushroom fungus."
Or "pizza pie" or "tuna fish"? Probably exists for the same reason.

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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby freezeblade » Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:27 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:Alternatively, dealing with the succulant "flesh" of a cactus, we're using cactus for a lump (say in cooking) and "cactus plant" is like a "beef animal". Although that's a more off the wall explanation that I have far less confidence in.


I use nopales* in cooking relatively often, and the used nomenclature is never based around "cactus" or "cacti" but spoken in units of "paddles/pads" or "nopales" ie. "We need to make sure to flip those paddles on the grill, before they burn!" or "Did you pick up those paddles from the market for the party tomorrow?"

Honestly, "nopal/nopales" is used far more often than "paddle/pads" in my household, but that might be due to the traditions on using cactus being entirely from the latino influence of my wife's side of the family. My side of the family is far too WASPy to have food traditions involving succulants/cati (we do have medicinal ones, however, because hippies).

*cactus paddles, de-thorned. Best to buy when there's someone in the market with a sharp knife, cutting off thorns right in front of you.
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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:28 am UTC

So the idea might be to treat "cactus" as a mass noun (e.g. field of cactus, cactus fruit) and thus "cactus plant" as a count noun? I guess that would make sense, though I can't say I've seen that really. I guess it depends on the plant. For instance, one might hear "rose bush," because the word "rose" by itself usually refers to a single flower (thus, you would never hear "rose flower"), but you wouldn't normally hear "hydrangea bush," because "hydrangea" by definition refers to the bush (thus, you would hear "hydrangea flower"). For trees, the pattern doesn't seem to hold, because you hear "oak tree" as often as or even more often than just "oak," for instance. Even then, I wouldn't say "there were five trees of oak" or "six plants of cactus."

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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby Mutex » Thu Jun 14, 2018 8:20 am UTC

I'm pretty sure I've only heard "cactus plant" when it's a small cactus in a plant pot that you might keep in your home, as opposed to one growing naturally in the desert.

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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Jun 14, 2018 8:40 am UTC

You saying that reminds me that another idea I had, too long after first posting the last time, was that "cactus plant" was a semmantically rearranged version of a "planted cactus".

But I still think I'm closest (though maybe still adrift) with the mass-noun prevalence.

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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby pogrmman » Sun Jun 17, 2018 4:47 pm UTC

I would never, ever use “cactus plant”. Even as a count noun. Cactus/cacti is sufficient for everything. “Field of cacti”, “cactus fruit”, “some cacti”, “every cactus”, “fifteen cacti”, “one cactus”, etc.

I do use “oak tree” sometimes — but not with modifiers like “red” or “live”. It really varies — I tend to prefer “oak” to “oak tree”, but it’s only a mild preference.

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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby Eebster the Great » Sun Jun 17, 2018 5:15 pm UTC

Some Googling definitely supports the usage of "cactus plant" as commonly used for houseplants exclusively, as opposed to wild cactus or even to cacti grown in gardens. I'm not sure why, but there are plenty of home & garden stores and the like using the term.

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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby Liri » Sun Jun 17, 2018 5:32 pm UTC

Perhaps to emphasize that they are indeed plants that one can possess. It feels weirdly demeaning.
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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby gd1 » Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:04 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:Has anyone else seen this apparently redundant phrase? To me, a cactus is a type of succulent, specifically a desert plant, and I assumed these were known almost everywhere. The phrase "cactus plant" seems as silly as "dog animal" or "mushroom fungus." But I've seen the exact phrase "cactus plant" or "cactus plants" three times now and I'm starting to doubt my sanity.


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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby ThirdParty » Mon Jun 18, 2018 4:41 am UTC

The OED defines "plant" as "A small plant, as distinct from a shrub or a tree", and that's the way I would tend to use it here. A "cactus plant" is a cactus that won't die if you keep it in a flowerpot.

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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby PM 2Ring » Mon Jun 18, 2018 12:25 pm UTC

I associate "cactus plants" with the song A Fine Romance composed by Jerome Kern with lyrics by Dorothy Fields, published in 1936. The song came from the popular Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers movie Swing Time.
A fine romance, my good woman
My strong, aged-in-the-wood woman
You never give those orchids I send a glance
They're just like cactus plants, (oh boy)
This is a fine romance!

I assume the term was already current at the time, but perhaps the song cemented it into popular consciousness.

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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby Eebster the Great » Mon Jun 18, 2018 3:29 pm UTC

gd1 wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:Has anyone else seen this apparently redundant phrase? To me, a cactus is a type of succulent, specifically a desert plant, and I assumed these were known almost everywhere. The phrase "cactus plant" seems as silly as "dog animal" or "mushroom fungus." But I've seen the exact phrase "cactus plant" or "cactus plants" three times now and I'm starting to doubt my sanity.


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No . . .

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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby Bloopy » Mon Jun 25, 2018 5:54 pm UTC

I would've interpreted "cactus plant" as simply emphasising that it's a plant being talked about. Even if it only makes sense in rare cases where it could be confused with the rock band by the same name, or people are using "cactus" to refer to the flavour of the prickly pear fruit, or something like that.

"Oak tree" makes a lot more sense as "oak" is commonly used to refer to just the wood.

ThirdParty wrote:A "cactus plant" is a cactus that won't die if you keep it in a flowerpot.

I've seen some in flowerpots which certainly looked dead!

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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby Eebster the Great » Mon Jun 25, 2018 7:16 pm UTC

Bloopy wrote:
ThirdParty wrote:A "cactus plant" is a cactus that won't die if you keep it in a flowerpot.

I've seen some in flowerpots which certainly looked dead!

Maybe those were cactus shrubs, not cactus plants!

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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby Link » Thu Jul 19, 2018 5:59 pm UTC

I don't really have anything constructive to add, but every time I see this sort of construction (read: every time I see this thread's title), I am reminded of this:
Image

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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Wed Aug 22, 2018 7:46 pm UTC

gd1 wrote:No one ever gave you one as a free gift?
I visually see what you did there!
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Re: "Cactus plant"

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Aug 23, 2018 12:47 am UTC

Technically "gave as a free gift" is even more redundant, since gifts are by definition both given and free.


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