Sunday, November 20, 2011

Learning to Say Borage

It’s late on a Saturday afternoon when friends (well my wife’s brother and his wife, really, but they’ve been good friends for decades) come to look at the garden. It is the middle of November, and I can point to the autumn tones in the remaining foliage.
We walk the leaf-strewn paths until we get close to the vegetable garden.
Oh, she says, you have herbs.
In a little patch formed by sawed-off logs, I have planted some herbs. Oregano is the most faithful, and we still have plenty of pointy green fingers of chives. Do you have rosemary? Well, I cut the rosemary and brought it indoors to dry.
But there’s another plant flourishing here, with half a dozen stalks of good green leaves.
What’s that?
Borage. I pronounce it with heavy start, as it the first syllable were “bore.” Boring age?
She says, wait, I think it’s “bor- ajjh” with the accent on the second syllable.
“Let’s find out,” she says.
She pulls out her iPad. (Or maybe it’s an iPhone. How can you tell?) She tries some instant magic. It doesn’t work.
He pulls out his Ipad, says, Wait. Nothing happens.
We make a few other attempts at pronunciation: “boor-idge” accent on the “boor.” Another version with a heavy “ahddje” at the end.
Suddenly she thinks of something else to do with the machine, a dictionary site, and sure enough, there’s the word. According to the pronunciation marks, it’s a really short “o’ as in ‘or’ and quick ‘ej,’ Slight accent on the first.
On the screen it shows something like: “/bor-ij.”
I practice saying it a few times, but don’t really get the finer phonemes.
“You can pick the leaves for salad greens,” she says.
Now that’s useful. “Oh,” I say, “I’ll do it for a salad tonight.”`
We move on to look at the wasted canes of raspberries, black berries, the low green leaves of strawberries. I say I am putting lime on the strawberries to sweeten the taste.
We go inside. We drink tea, eat scones. Other relatives arrive, a pre-party for the family event on the following day. Anne roasts a chicken.
I forget to pick the borage leafs for salad greens.
I forget how to pronounce borage.
A week goes by, including a couple of nights diving below freezing. I finally remember to go look for “/bor-ij.”
The leaves look fine; I pick a handful. The plant is even trying to flower. The salad is delicious.