So this is a word I learned from reading many years ago, and today that knowledge helped my company dodge a bullet.
My employer was tasked with naming a series of items (names that will be seen by clients on an ongoing basis) and decided to go with a theme of pleasant-sounding plant names. Additionally, as an in-house mneumonic, each plant name started with a different letter of the alphabet, and today I recieved the final, approved list.
And there, as our "D" plant selection, was the word "Dahlia."
Now dahlias are indeed plants, lovely flowers in the daisy family, and if you google "dahlia," you'll get nice, pretty flower pictures.
Unfortunately, the word is also strongly linked to the term "Black Dahlia," a brutal and highly-publicized murder case from the 1940s. (Google that one at your own risk). My employer was obviously unaware of this.
"But wait," I thought, "Time marches on. It's been eighty years. Maybe it's no longer common knowledge, and I'm the one weirdo in the office who happens to have heard of 'Black Dahlia.' I don't want to make a fuss for no reason." So I decided to do an informal poll of two younger coworkers who happened to be nearby.
"I'm going to say a phrase," says I, "And I want you to tell me the first thing that comes to mind."
"Murder," says one without hesitation.
"Murder," the second agrees.
Houston, we have a problem... but I think, "Maybe I was too leading in my choice of word association; I did say the name of the case itself." So I asked a follow-up question. "What if I had just said 'dahlia?" Would you have thought of the flowers rather than murder?"
Coworker 2: There's a flower called a "dahlia?"
Me: "Thanks. That's exactly what I needed to know."
I sent appropriate emails and it will forever remain a non-issue, but it just goes to show how important it is to know, not only the meaning of words, but sometimes multiple meanings, and so I'm adding these to the list:
Dahlia- noun. Any composite plant of the genus Dahlia, native to Mexico and Central America and widely cultivated for its showy, variously colored flower heads.
Black Dahlia - Elizabeth Short (July 29, 1924 - January 14 or 15, 1947) known posthumously as "the Black Dahlia," was an American woman who was found murdered in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.