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Live oaks?

Posted by Lotg on September 19, 2004

Another strange thing I've found in my book...

The author is setting the scene, she says... "We drove by the Old MIssion and on past Rocky Nook Park. The live oaks stretched overhead, gnarled and dark... she later continued to mention sycamores and other trees, but didn't bother to prefix them with 'live'.

I looked it up and this is what I found:

noun: any of several American evergreen oaks

Here's my problem. When people describe greenery they don't usually bother to prefix it with 'live'. It does generally seem to be a given. Otherwise, I think it more likely you'd point out they were dead. She didn't use capitals, hence my confusion - yet as the above MW definition implies, it's a generic term for American oaks. We have a squillion (technical term - and not scientifically substantiated) varieties of gum tree (Eucalypts) and when we describe an area we don't say 'live gum trees' to cover the generic brands.

Does anyone know why this generic description came to be something as, I would have thought obvious and superfluous and 'live'? Presumably the sycamores are alive too.