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In The Liar's Key by Mark Lawrence, a banker is informing Jalan about the stock exchange process:

‘Stakes are purchased using the calendula paddle to attract the seller’s attention,’ Marco continued as if I hadn’t so much as twitched my lips. ‘Both parties then retire to one of the transaction booths after contracting a House Gold witness to officiate the paperwork. The sale must then be registered at—’

What does "calendula paddle" mean? I think it's used literally but it sounds too weird.

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The context is that the narrator is selling stakes “in three of the finest merchantmen beneath sail” on a “trading floor”, so “paddle” would seem to mean a bidding paddle of the kind used in auction rooms.

But “calendula” is a mystery. The only plausible explanation I can come up with is that “calendula”, the generic name of the marigold, is intended to refer to the colour of the paddle:

marigold, adj. Of the colour of the marigold flower, bright orange-yellow.

Oxford English Dictionary

This is plausible because the trading floor is operated by “House Gold”, which seems to be a fantasy equivalent of a Renaissance banking family like the House of Medici. Such a family might well decorate their equipment in their house livery, which would likely be a colour close to gold, to suggest their name.

If this theory is right, it would be a misuse of the word, because although “marigold” refers to the colour as well as the flower, “calendula” does not: it refers only to the flower. But since The Liar’s Key is a fantasy novel, perhaps the misuse is deliberate, to give a sense of estrangement.

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