“Rosebud.” It’s the first line of dialogue in one of the most acclaimed films ever made, Orson Welles’ 1941 classic “Citizen Kane.”
It’s the first line of dialogue in one of the most acclaimed films ever made, Orson Welles’ 1941 classic “Citizen Kane.” It’s also the last thing said by the film’s title character, which cleverly drives the entire tale.
It’s not a particularly cheery story. However, “rose” terms usually accentuate the positive. For example, a “rosy” outlook is one that’s “bright, promising, cheerful, etc.” And rosy cheeks often are considered a sign of good health as well as colorful. In fact, they might even mean you’re in the pink.
Similarly, “roseate” and “rose-colored” also can mean “bright, cheerful or optimistic.” The latter can even indicate “undue optimism” in the phrase “through rose-colored glasses.”
The upbeat beat goes on in the informal phrases “bed of roses” — “a situation or position of ease; luxury” — and “come up roses” — “to turn out very well.”
Expanding on the latter is “to come out (or up) smelling like a rose,” which indicates a positive result from an originally distasteful situation.
The distinctive odor of roses inspired the names “rosewood,” which comes from certain tropical plants and is used to make furniture, pianos and such, and “rose water,” a concoction containing rose oil and used for perfume.
“Rose hips,” the fleshy false fruit of the plant, are rich in vitamin C and are used in a variety of things to eat and drink as well as dietary supplements.
But the type of wine called “rose” (pronounced “ro-ZAY” with an accent over the “e”) is named for its color (French for “pink”) rather than its flavor.
“Rhodon,” the Greek for “rose,” also survives in English in the prefix “rhodo-,” meaning “rose” or “rose-red,” as in “rhododendron.”
Webster’s says it may also be referred to in “Rhode Island,” possibly from the Dutch “Roodt Eylandt” (“red island”) — but maybe it’s from the island of Rhodes in the Aegean.
Rhode Island, of course, is our smallest state. By contrast, Rhodes was known for its Colossus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, a giant statue of Apollo at the entrance of its harbor. It probably wasn’t large enough to straddle Rhode Island, though.
The rose also has an iconic shape, reflected in such terms as “rosette” (a type of ornament among other things), “rose window,” “compass rose” (a depiction of the points of a compass) and “desert rose” (a rock formed out of gypsum, barite and sand inclusions).
The flower also has a lengthy history as a symbol. In ancient times it signified secrecy, expressed in the Latin “sub rosa” — literally, “under the rose.” We still use the Latin and English versions to mean “secretly; privately; confidentially.”
England’s series of civil wars beginning in 1455 to determine who would control the throne came to be known as the “Wars of the Roses.” The combatants were the House of York (symbolized by a white rose) and the House of Lancaster (a red rose).
A final battle was fought in 1485, and the houses were united when a Lancaster descendant, Henry Tudor, who became Henry VII, married a York descendant, Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV.
By 1558, another Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII, became queen. Her reign, sometimes called the Golden Age, included the era of Shakespeare. I’ll give the Bard the last word on roses in his famous passage from “Romeo and Juliet”:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Next week: More words from “Citizen Kane.”
Other interesting “rose” quotes:
“Rosy-fingered dawn appeared, the early-born.”
— Homer (the Greek poet, not Simpson)
“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying,
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.”
— Robert Herrick
“O, my Luve is like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June.”
— Robert Burns
“They are not long, the days of wine and roses.”
— Ernest Dowson
“Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
One perfect rose.”
— Dorothy Parker
“Even bein’ Gawd ain’t a bed of roses.”
— Marcus Cook Connelly
“Money, which represents the prose of life, and which is hardly spoken of in parlors without an apology, is, in its effects and laws, as beautiful as roses.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Roses are red, violets are blue. ...”
That’s enough for me; how about you?