The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #40546   Message #1060382
Posted By: Q (Frank Staplin)
25-Nov-03 - 01:40 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Bushes and Briars
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Bushes and briars
The distinction between brier and briar is nil when the word is familiarly applied to spiny plants.

The OED has this for the Erica whose root is used to make pipes:
Brier, briar, formerly bruyer, heath; erroneously identified with the preceding word [the brier-briar of the song]. The white heath, Erica arborea.
In 1869, in the Tobacco Trade Review, the word briar, later brier, began to be substituted for bruyer.
Why bruyer was dropped is not explained; perhaps it was hard to wrap the tongue around. At the time Meerschaum (a corruption by the Germans of the translated Persian name kef-i-darya for a form of sepiolite- sea foam) was a sharp competitor.