Of spoons, melonious and runcible

Cover of "The Owl and the Pussycat"

Cover of The Owl and the Pussycat

Calling all moms and grandmas, aunts and godmothers and friends! (Dads and grandpas, godfathers and uncles, too.) What items, unusual or otherwise, have you brought home from travel that you can enjoy with the children back home? Could you use some of them in conjunction with schoolwork or even just while you read them a story?

My prior post (Aug. 23, 2010) extols the joys of the pit-free eating of melons. There, I expressed amazement that someone had actually come up with the idea of a three-pronged melon spoon. To be honest, I should have known better.

When my daughter was little (quite a while back—she’s a recent college grad), I used to read her my favorite children’s poem, The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, the Victorian artist and writer. So often did I read her this ditty that she committed it to memory when she was  barely three years old.

Wikipedia calls The Owl and the Pussycat a “nonsense” poem, but to me it has always seemed utterly romantic—the owl setting sail with his beloved kitty, playing his guitar and singing of his love for her under the stars. Adding to the romance, they end up on an island—and don’t you just love this?—not just any ol’ isle, but one where the “bong” tree grows.

But it’s the last few lines that have always stayed with me:

They dined on mince and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, by the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon.
They danced by the light of the moon.

As a child, I always wondered what made a spoon “runcible;” as an adult, I looked it up. Several dictionaries imply that this is kind of a combination fork and spoon, one with three prongs; some people call this a spork. Apparently, Edward Lear, who coined “runcible,” intended this as a nonsense word.

On a trip to Japan, as my family and I ate watermelon from a low table set on a ryokan’s  tatami floor, I found the closest approximation of runcible I could ever imagine—those lovely melon spoons.  Thus, I wondered:  did some clever Japanese get the idea from Edward Lear’s verse? Or, did Lear taste watermelon in Japan and get inspired to write the poem?

I’ve researched this a little, and have found that though he was well traveled, Lear apparently never went to Japan. In addition, there seems to be disagreement as to what Lear envisioned when he wrote of a “runcible spoon.” It seems that he might have envisioned it as looking like a very big ladle. Even so, I like to imagine it would have looked something like my Japanese melon spoon.

Japanese melon spoon: RUNCIBLE?

Someday, when I have a grandchild, I’ll read him or her Lear’s poem. And when I do, I’ll take out my melon spoons. Who knows? Maybe my grandchild will even bring that spoon to school for Show and Tell.

I can hardly wait for grandparenthood to come. Until then, I can try my own hand at inventing nonsense words. Melonious, anyone?


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About RitaElizabeth

I'm a recently widowed wife and mother who loves to use ideas and experiences from travel to enrich my family's life at home. I blog to share ideas with you and to hear your ideas and comments.
This entry was posted in Books/literature, children, Poetry, Romance/love, Silverware/cutlery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Of spoons, melonious and runcible

  1. KMX says:

    Oh my god I completely forgot about this book until you mentioned it! I love re-discovering childhood books.

    I like runcible better than spork. Think we could get it to catch on?

    • I’m ecstatic that my post reminded you about “The Owl and the Pussycat.” It was my favorite childhood poem and I still adore it.

      Yes, I like “runcible” much better than “spork!” “Runcible”” does have such a poetic ring, doesn’t it? But of course–Edward Lear made up the word.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. kluckmeister says:

    Wasn’t logged in on that last one. You don’t have to approve this, just wanted you to know I wasn’t some total stranger.

  3. Pingback: Of spoons, melonious and runcible « carmeridss

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