A woman fights off a bear with a “courgette.” What is a courgette” and why is it funny?

According to the British tabloid the Daily Mirror, a quick-thinking Montana woman fended off a bear attack with a 14-inch courgette. Is this some sort of ax, shovel, or broom? No. Here’s a hint: a courgette is perfect sautéed in garlic and butter.

If you are of British extraction, you may recognize the weapon of necessity as the humble yet prolific zucchini. A green variety of summer squash, and bane to spelling bee participants, the heroic zucchini deserves a moment in the spotlight, at least linguistically.

Zucchinis are the fruit of Cucurbita pepo genus, the botanic family of gourds, summer and winter squash. Squash is a shortening of the Native American Narraganset word askutasquash, borrowed by the early European settlers to Rhode Island. Askutasquash literally means “the green things that can be eaten raw” — a pretty succinct definition.

The unassuming zucchini is a world traveler. While its biological origins are in the Americas, its name and importance to European culinary tradition has to do with its popular debut in Italy during the 19th Century. A diminutive of the Italian word for squash, zucca, was applied to the small green fruit fresh off the boat and became zucchini. So, how did this New World fruit with an Old World name come to be called a courgette? As the popularity of summer squash spread through the kitchens of Europe, the French designated the fruit in the same pattern of the Italians; courge, the French word for squash, became courgette, and from there, the fruit and its French name migrated to England.

The beauty of this vegetable tale is rivaled by the mystery of how “coffee” got its name. Drink of this knowledge, here.