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If I researched correctly (and with that I mean reading a bit of Wikipedia), the plant name ワスレナグサ, or 忘れな草 when written with Kanji, is a calque of German "Vergissmeinnicht" ("forget-me-not" in English) from the early 1900s. I know that グサ is just 草 having gone through Rendaku, but what kind of grammar is behind the rest of the construction? I wondered because 忘れな reminded me of a positive imperative rather than a negative one.

If anyone has an answer, I would greatly appreciate hearing it!

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I researched for a while and here's my result.

According to this site:

「忘れな草」 という名称は,英語 「forget-me-not」 の和訳語ですが,植物学者の川上滝弥氏が「勿忘草」の漢字を当てて命名したものです。

英語の 「forget-me-not」 は 〈私を忘れないで!〉という意味ですが,このことばは,もともとはドイツの伝説からきていることばなのです。

「忘れな草」 is a 和訳(わやく) of the English word 「forget-me-not」, and 「勿忘草」 is a 当て字(ateji), meaning 〈私を忘れないで!〉(Don't forget me!)

However, according to this:

植物学者の牧野富太郎は「わするなぐさ(忘るな草)」と呼ぶ方が良いと命名したが、現在は「忘れな草」の別名として呼ばれる程度となっている。

「忘れな草」(ワスレナグサ) is a 別名(byname) for 「わするなぐさ(忘るな草)」, but nowadays 「忘れな草」(ワスレナグサ) is much more common than the original one.

According to this answer:

忘るは古語です。昔のことばです。

「忘る」 is the old form of 「忘れる」, so the negative imperative / prohibitionary な comes after the 終止形 or terminal form of the verb, naturally becoming 「忘れな」, and hence 「忘れな草」. Thanks to @Eiríkr Útlendi.

Hope this helps!

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    A minor quibble about the grammar. As a classical verb, 忘【わす】るな would be the negative imperative: "don't forget" as a command. The negative imperative / prohibitionary な can only come after the 終止形【しゅうしけい】 or terminal form of the verb. The regular negative form would be 忘【わす】れない. 忘【わす】れな is not the negative, and in fact it's instead the informal request form, which is a shortening of 忘【わす】れなさい. Alternatively, this な might be understood as attributive. I suspect that the 忘【わす】れな in this word 忘【わす】れな草【ぐさ】 represents an irregular sound shift, parseable as an irregular shortening of 忘【わす】れない. – Eiríkr Útlendi Oct 22 '20 at 18:18

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