Edward Lear made up the word ‘runcible’ for the poem The Owl and the Pussycat – “They dined on mince, and slices of quince/ which they ate with a runcible spoon.” For years I wondered what a runcible spoon was, exactly, and what made it so appropriate for mince and quince. I’ve found sources that describe it as a spoon with tines (‘tine’ comes from Middle English for ‘point’) – a sort of ‘spork’ I guess (‘spork’ being one of those portmanteau words, and first defined in the early 20th century) – but a runcible spoon simply doesn’t exist – it merely scans beautifully within the line. Runcible was evidently Lear’s favourite nonsense word, and he used it elsewhere in different contexts. Isn’t it lovely to have a word all one’s own?
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