© 17 Dec 2014 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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Some thoughts on words and the lack thereof.


I have a small collection of English dictionaries. One of them defines “‍runcible spoon‍” as “‍a kind of fork, curved like a spoon‍”others disagree with this definition…. One of them defines “‍spork‍” as a “‍spoon having, at the end of the bowl, projections resembling the tines of a fork‍”. The term “‍ice cream fork‍” is defined as “‍a spoon with flat tines‍”; so is “‍Terrapin fork‍”. Oddly, those dictionaries I have that define “‍Terrapin‍” sans fork says they are “‍a make of prefabricated building, usually having one story and defined for temporary use‍”; the non-capitalized “‍terrapin‍” is a type of turtle.

And what about the more general idea of “‍tools used by each diner at a meal‍”? “‍Utensil‍”, “‍service‍”, and “‍tableware‍” are too general terms; “‍flatware‍” is close (excluding only chopsticks) in the US but not in the UK; “‍cutlery‍” is anything made by a cutler, including scissors and not including spoons; “‍silverware‍” is a material (rather than functional) subset of tableware. How did we end up with four words for Terrapin forks but none for the family of knives, forks, spoons, sporks, and chop-sticks?

I suppose this is but one evidence of a general rule: it is easy to add terms for ideas that are not in common use but hard to add them for everyday ideas.

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