"let your boat of life be light, packed with only
what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, someone to love and someone to love you,
enough to eat and enough to wear
and a little more than enough to drink:
for thirst is a dangerous thing"

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

the runcible spoon

by Edward Lear
I love this silhouette of the owl and the pussycat!

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat:
They took some honey, and plenty of money
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"0 lovely Pussy, 0 Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
         You are,
         You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!"

Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing!
Oh! let us be married; too long we have tarried,
But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the bong-tree grows;
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood,
With a ring at the end of his nose,
          His nose,
          His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will."
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on 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

It is pretty weird when you think back to your school days and all the knowledge you once learnt (and that you have now forgotten) and what events you remember and which incidents stand out the most.  Well to me, one bit of silliness that I will always remember was when I was in Standard Four (Grade 6, Amy) at Rosebank Junior ("school of the young, teaching us wisdom for what is to come, inspiring us strongly" - school song).  Mr Viljoen was my teacher.  Big and burly (he was the first person, I ever knew who did "calligraphy").  Mr Viljoen read "The Owl and the Pussycat" to our class and we discussed it a bit.   Not that Grade 6's discussed anything in too much depth.  The "runcible spoon" bit had floored me and I felt the need to ask Mr Viljoen (very Afrikaans) what a "runcible spoon" was.  "Aaag man Jennifer Eccles, they were on a boat, runcible is just runcible, you know, rusty".  I was satisfied and accepted his explanation.  You never doubted your teacher and especially your first "male" (who did calligraphy) teacher.  The  poem is also one of a few that has stayed in my head and I am sure when I am 91 years old (like Michael's mother) I will still remember it, word for word.   Ask me to recite it to you one day (it is one of my many party tricks).

World Poetry Day
You may well ask

A couple of years ago the word "runcible" came up in a game.  I was adamant that it was a word, nobody would believe me when I said that it meant "rusty" and even when I recited the entire poem and gave them Mr Viljoen's explanation to 11 year old Jennifer, nobody believed me.

So last week at the bookshop, I found a book of children's verse (which I bought to read to my grandchildren (one day)) and did a little spot-test on myself on the words.  "Good work Jennifer" (you make me proud).  Now being 53 and a bit wiser, the argument over the word "runcible" came back to me and I decided to use the knowledge that I now have at my fingertips (in the form of the internet).  I am shattered and dismayed and even tried googling Mr Viljoen to find out where he is and hunt him down.  How could he have made me believe that runcible meant rusty when runcible does not even have a meaning:-

From Wikipedia:-

"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" as a fork with three broad curved prongs and a sharpened edge, used with pickles or hors d'oeuvres, such as a pickle fork.  It is occasionally used as a synonym for "spork".  However, this definition is not consistent with Lear's drawing, in which it is a ladle, nor does it account for the other "runcible" objects in Lear's poems.

From WiseGeek:-

"A runcible spoon is a fictional spoon. The word “runcible” is a nonsense term first used by the poet Edward Lear in the 19th century. Lear used the term runcible spoon first in his poem “The Owl and The Pussycat,” where the two besotted animals dine on mince and slices of quince, eating them with a “runcible spoon.” Lear also used the term runcible again as a modifier for hat, goose, and wall.

Runcible Spoon is also the name of jazz band, a store in Rhode Island that sells kitchen items, a restaurant in Indiana, and a bakery in New York. Despite an unclear picture of what a runcible spoon is, or even what the adjective means, it continues to capture the public’s imagination."

So Edward Lear made up the word and Mr Viljoen made up the meaning and for all these years I believed the man (calligraphy man).

What about a little coffee shop / pub in our neighbourhood called "The Runcible Spoon"?   I will serve great coffee and delicious cakes that Gill will bake for me (from 9 in the morning till 2 in the afternoon).  I will head home to rest (between 2 and 4) and then from 4.30 to 7.00, fine wine and other drinks will be served (with a few snacks like slices of quince and a bit of mince).  It is not going to be a place for fine dining.  It will be a place to connect and chat and then leave to head home to your husbands to "dance by the light of the moon".
Just brainstorming.  This is what happens when I am on holiday.


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