Sporks and foons

In an early posting for this column I wrote about the term portmanteau word, coined by Lewis Carroll to designate ‘two words folded up into one.’ One of his own portmanteau words, chortle, a combination of chuckle and snort, has survived as a real English word. Another cruce or blend that has held on in English for some time is spork, a word that goes back at least to the first years of the 20th century, and whose components are spoon and fork.

An early reference book that included spork was the edition of The Century Dictionary that had 1906 as its most recent copyright date. Its entry for the word was: “[sp(oon) + (f)ork.] A ‘portmanteau-word’ applied to a long, slender spoon having at the end of the bowl projections resembling the tines of a fork. [Trade use.].”

Even before the coining of the word spork itself, various utensils combining a spoon and fork appeared in the last quarter of the 19th century; Wikipedia refers to such pre-spork sporks as proto-sporks. People who have heard of protons and quarks but haven’t kept up with the most recent developments in physics may be forgiven for assuming that a proto-spork is some sort of new subatomic particle.

Because there’s no inherent order in the combining of a spoon and a fork, it makes as much sense to think of the resulting utensil as a combination of a fork and a spoon, which is why the English-language portmanteau term foon is also in circulation. In terms of frequency, though, we’ll have to admit that spork has eaten spoon‘s lunch, so to speak.

It’s natural to wonder whether Spanish, when confronted with all the sporks and foons that have gone into English-speaking mouths, swallowed one or both of those words outright, as it has done with blog and DVD and so many other English terms. The answer is no: as the Spanish-language Wikipedia article on the subject quickly makes clear, far and away the most common Spanish equivalent is cuchador, a blending of cuchara ‘spoon’ and tenedor ‘fork.’

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Sporks and foons revisited « Spanish-English Word Connections
  2. Vania Scalice
    Feb 27, 2011 @ 15:20:52

    Super story it is surely. I have been looking for this update.


  3. Trackback: turigrino « Spanish-English Word Connections

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©2011–2018 Steven Schwartzman

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