Weeds are called “mauvaises herbes” in French – bad herbs, bad little plants. One word in English, two words in French. In English the “bad” is built into the word. Weeds are – by nature – bad. We don’t need to say “bad weeds”. In French “herbes” can be positive, “herbes fines, plants used to make food taste even better…oregano, thyme, parsley, sage, rosemary and the like. But in English weeds are intrinsically nasty; there are no good ones. Here’s what the people that make the Webster dictionary have to say about being a “weed”: a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth; especially one that tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants. Here’s the Free Dictionary’s take on the word: A plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one that grows where it is not wanted and often grows or spreads fast or takes the place of desired plants. – Weeds are no good; they overgrow, choke, spread rapidly, take the place of more desirable plants, and are not even pleasant to look at.
Do you know people who have pangs of conscience when pulling weeds? I saw one in the mirror the other day. He smiled meekly when he said (in all seriousness), “And what if all Being has feelings? What if ants, plants, worms, trees, and even moons and suns have feelings?” I wondered how he could live in this world. He sensed my thought and said, “Of course there would be infinite suffering – suffering everywhere, but wouldn’t there also be infinite joy?”
Weeds are herewith and henceforth redefined to include much more than plants. There are sociological weeds, intellectual weeds, media weeds, architectural weeds, animal weeds, moral weeds, philosophical weeds, medical weeds, historical weeds, weeds in one’s family tree, weedy neighbors, politicians that should be weeded out, and even parts of oneself that should be considered weeds.
Weeds in the garden are extirpated and jettisoned without the slightest prick of any human conscience. Other weeds – even rather obvious ones like ghettos, rotten marriages, or corrupt leaders – are often very difficult to eliminate. They can engender long weedy legal battles, weedy wars, weedy divorces, and lots of other weedy happenings on the planet earth.
There is rarely a lack of consensus as to what constitutes “weediness” in the garden. Sadly, defining other kinds of weeds is much more difficult. Because of this many unattractive and undesirable things choke out many attractive and desirable things for long periods of time on this earth.
An example of an intellectual weed that has outgrown its welcome and should have long ago been pulled out and removed from the human garden: What is good for me is good for everybody else. This is a nefarious weed that has grown wildly in human heads for thousands of years.