endive

There are several ways to say this word, and in the end I’ve no clear proclivity to one or another. It did come to us most immediately from French, so come on, diva, say it with flair if you wish. But you can also go with the Oxford English Dictionary’s suggestion and make an end of it. The French word came, after all, from Latin, as did Portuguese, Spanish and Italian endivia (no going “on” with that version; the beginning is the “end”). The Latin was intibus or intubus – now, that sounds downright surgical, and uncomfortably close to incubus (close to any incubus is uncomfortable) – and there’s a 10th-century Greek entubon which, pronounced like modern Greek, would be “en-dee-von.” Anyway, this word gives a different, softer, more elegant feel than chicory, the name for the genus of which endive names two species. Especially softer and more elegant if you stick with the French pronunciation, or at least keep away from the broadly anglophone one, which sounds like a short way of saying “nose-dive” and blends two rather downer words. Its object is a quite elegant-looking thing, too, among the most proper of the fancy greens, and as tidy and contained as the word: calm light green and yellow, and none of those ruffles or streaks (nor, perhaps ironically, is its appearance veined). And the leaves can hold a variety of choice spreads and mélanges, spoon-like. Or mix it up and the result is almost divine.

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