As a child, I genuinely did believe that Boysenberry was pronounced “Poison-Berry,” a mistake I suspect I was not alone among children in having made.
Further, I was convinced that all poison in the world derived from this one potently toxic berry, and that were this berry to go extinct we could eat what we liked, free of the danger it posed.
I didn’t, in this light, understand why we farmed such a self-evidently terrible plant, until, thinking about it further, I realized that there were indeed times when poison was called for.
Rats, for example, or insectile infestation. Or, were you a b-character in an Edwardian Locked Room mystery novel set at a cozy cottage or summerhouse, the disposal of an unwanted spouse.
Vincent Price, also, has disposed of spouses in this way. Though he always seemed to regret it in the next film he made. I never understood, as a child, why he didn’t learn his lesson and stop killing his wives…
But that’s a story for another day.
My point is that, due to a child’s mispronunciation of the word, I was convinced for a number of years that “Poison-Berry,” the most dangerous fruit in the world, was sold in the produce section of every supermarket. And, not knowing any better, as children tend not to do, no part of this struck me as the least bit unusual.
A profoundly dangerous, highly toxic substance, sold between shelves full of berries of the much safer “Rasp,” “Blue,” and “Straw” varieties. Seems legit. They were all berries after all, where else would we put them?
In hindsight, I could probably have figured out the flaw in my logic more quickly than I did, but children aren’t widely known for their cognitive capacity and talent for logical problem solving. The thing had its own internal logic, and when I asked my father about the poison berry, rather than teaching me something he took the opportunity to mess with me a little for his own amusement.
“Oh yes,” he told me, not even bothering to suppress his chuckle, “deadly, deadly poison. It would be for the best if you were to steer clear of them…”
And then he took the slice of pie mother had so thoughtfully prepared for my desert.
Insomuch as, presumably, the man had sex with my mother. Fathers tend to do that, after all…