the marrow of life

My elderly mother lives alone. One of her main interests is the vegetable garden, which keeps her busy and fairly fit, but I guess I do occasionally worry that there would be no one there to help in an emergency.

Headline - Woman repels bear using courgette

Mind you, this headline from the BBC reasssures me that, while her garden continues productive, she has the means at hand to deal with certain dangers.

Only, I really do think it’d take more than a courgette to deter a ‘200lb (91kg) black bear’. (Some other sites are referring to the weapon as a zucchini, but both the BBC and the Telegraph call it a courgette.)

The BBC story includes a photo of the vegetable with a tape measure alongside; it measures 14 inches (approximately 35 cm for the converted among the readers). That isn’t a courgette. It’s a vegetable marrow.

Courgettes are delicate vegetables*, best eaten when they’re no bigger than ladies’ fingers. Surely the clue is in the -ette ending, which implies a small version of something. (I’ve often wondered if the French use the word courge for marrow, and assume it may be connected with our own ‘gourd’.)

In Spanish, a courgette is calabacín – again, with a diminutive ending ‘-ín’ – as opposed to calabaza, the word used for larger squash and pumpkins. I wonder if the story is reported in the Spanish press if it will say that the woman dió calabazas al oso.

From the RAE online dictionary:

dar calabazas a alguien.

2. loc. verb. coloq. Desairarlo o rechazarlo cuando requiere de amores.

Certainly she seems to have (s)quashed his advances.

* In fact courgettes are fruits. And the bear clearly wasn’t a Monty Python fan or he’d have known that if someone attacks you with a piece of fruit, the secret is to disarm your assailant, eat the fruit, and then kill them with a rather more effective weapon.

If you want to watch the sketch, it’s on youtube.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

4 thoughts on “the marrow of life”

  1. It’s lucky the bear hadn’t got a point-ed stick.

    To add to the confusion, according to my (rather ancient) English-French dictionary, a marrow is a courge à la moelle, courge aubergine or courgette, while courge unmodified is a gourd, but so is gourde. Courgettes were seemingly unknown in English at the time of publication (1962), so presumably encounters with bears were more often fatal in those days.

    And after working all that out, I need to refill my calabash with wine.


    1. Back in ’62, my mother was nimble enough to have sacrificed one of her offspring to the bear and escaped with the others, so the lack of courgettes – and, indeed, the lack of vegetable plot – might not have been a problem.

      The fact they ‘hadn’t invented’ courgettes back then makes me wonder if we ate ‘meat and two veg’ because that’s pretty much all there was. Well, there were three, I suppose, carrots, cabbage and peas, but eating only two at one meal allowed a varied diet. (Yorkshire pudding is not a vegetable, even in my carbohydratically biased book.) However did we get our ‘five-a-day’?

      I thought the calabash was for tobacco, not wine. But then, I also thought Miss Matty wore a calabash bonnet to protect her from the elements.


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