It sounds like a character in a kids’ book, but it stands for an overly successful flower. Many lovers of flat, grassy lawns have exclaimed that there’s nothing dandy about these plants, and whoever says they are is lyin’. Certainly the first word association many would come up with for this one is weed. The plant is hardy, rough-and-tumble like its rounded, bouncing word (all at the front of the tongue, and all voiced), but pretty, too. Its floating seeds, signs of later summer, make guest appearances in feminine hygiene ads, but a cue from the name would make them seem more like dander or dandruff. This word has always seemed yellow to me – of course I knew the flower before the name. Its two d‘s give me an image of the cheeks of a cartoon lion, but what is leonine about this flower? You may think it’s the bush of yellow florets, somehow like a mane, but in fact it’s the leaves, like lion’s teeth – dent de lion is the French source. Next time you sink your teeth into a fresh dandelion green, see if it bites back.

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