"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Saturday, 17 April 2010


A runcible spoon is a utensil that appears in nonsense poetry, which also uses the adjective "runcible" to describe objects other than spoons. It is considered by some to be a nonsense word.

Edward Lear's best-known poem, The Owl and the Pussycat, published in 1871, includes the passage:
They dined on mince and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon.

Lear does not appear to have had any firm idea of what the word "runcible" means. His whimsical nonsense verse celebrates words primarily for their sound, and a specific definition is not needed to appreciate his work. However, since the 1920s (several decades after Lear's death), modern dictionaries have generally defined a runcible spoon to be a fork with three broad curved prongs and a sharpened edge, used with pickles or hors d'oeuvres, such as a pickle fork.

Notwithstaninding its apparent nonesense associations it is used in C J Sansom's nopvel 'Dissolution':-

“This evening he stayed to dine at the obedentiaries’ table, where a great haunch of beef was served with runcible peas.

1 comment:

  1. For all that I'm not sure I can envisage a runcible pea!
    WV = pstation (odd after mention of peas but sounds more like a public convenience to me.