The word spork is a combination of spoon and fork. Though Bill Clinton called the spork "a big, new idea" in March 1995, the word "spork" appeared in the 1909 supplement to the Century Dictionary, where it was described as a trade name and "a 'portmanteau-word' applied to a long, slender spoon having at the end of the bowl projections resembling the tines of a fork." A variation of the spork is the splade, which in addition to the overall spoon shape, and fork tines, has a somewhat sharp edge or blade on one or both sides.
History of the Spork
The spork is the descendant of the "runcible spoon" mentioned in the Edward Lear poem "The Owl and the Pussycat", re-moulded by the science of modern materials. Sporks have been manufactured since, at least, the late 1800's. The Folgate Silver Plate Company of England manufactured one in sometime between 1875 and 1900.
The word spork oringinated as a trademark. According to a December 20, 1952 New York Times article, Hyde W. Ballard of Westtown, Pennsylvania applied for trademark registration at the United States Patent and Trademark Office of "Spork" for a combination spoon and fork made of stainless steel. On August 11, 1970 the United States Patent and Trademark Office Gazette listed the trademark application of the Van Brode Milling Company for the word Spork. The trademark has since lapsed in the United States.
In the United Kingdom, the mark "Spork" was registered by Plastico Limited as TM 1052291 effective September 18, 1975. The mark is still in effect. In a 1999 lawsuit broght by Plastico against Regalzone, a Justice Neuberger wrote: "I accept that the word Spork involves a clever idea of making a single word by eliding the end of the word spoon and beginning of the word fork. The fact that it is clever and the fact that the meaning of Spork could be said to be obvious once it is explained does not mean that it is obvious what it is. Indeed, I would have thought that if one asked a person in 1975 what a Spork was, he or she would not know. If one then explained what it was and how the word came about, one might then be told that it was obvious or that it was clever."
Regalzone now calls their sporks snack spoons.
There are many false rumors about the origin of the spork and the word spork. According to a rumor circulated in the "Spork FAQ", the spork was invented in the 1940s by the United States Army, which introduced them to occupied Japan. This rumor has all the hallmarks of an urban legend. Virtually every reference to the occupied Japan theory misspells General Douglas MacArthur's name as McArthur, lending credence to the notion that all these references have a common origin.
The Straight Dope reports that a patent was issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a "combination spoon, fork, and knife" to the Van Brode Milling Company of Clinton, Massachusetts on August 11, 1970. This is incorrect, but the trademark application of the Van Brode Milling Company for the word spork was published on that date.
Another popular Internet rumour describes the spork as the creation of a nameless resource-pressed and inventive Nazi scientist towards the end of World War II. Supposedly, the spork was designed for use with field ration kits issued to front line troops. No known historical documents validate this urban legend, but it is clearly wrong. Both the word spork and the utensil predate World War II.
Materials and Uses
Sporks can be made from plastic, metal, or wood. Plastic sporks are disposable, but metal and wood sporks are meant to be cleaned and reused. Metals such as stainless steel, lightweight aluminum and even the very lightweight (but costly) titanium have been used in spork manufacture.
Sporks have been spotted at many other restaurants and in school cafeterias. Sporks are also available for consumer purchase, and are often found at picnics and similar occasions.
Metal sporks are also sometimes called grapefruit spoons, and used on that fruit, whose successful total consumption is aided by a combination scooping-and-stabbing tool. Others prefer to reserve the name "grapefruit spoon" to a spoon that has been given a serrated edge like a knife around part of its lip.
The pastry fork has a similar combination: it combines a fork and a knife, for one handed cutting-and-spearing.
I came here to offer a way to make peace with our Republican friends on this heated school lunch issue. Al Gore and I have discovered a reinventing government way, Mr. Armey, to get around this terrible rhetoric we've been flinging at you on school lunches. We have a way to save money through streamlining that does not require us to deprive our children of food. Instead of cutting food, we're going to cut the cutlery. And here's how—with a spork. Now, you know, I don't know how many of you know this, I've been eating off these things for years. I never knew they were called sporks. But that's what they are. This is the symbol of my administration. This is a cross between a spoon and a fork. No more false choice between the left utensil and the right utensil. This is not an ideological choice. This is a choice in the middle and a choice for the future. This is a big, new idea—the spork.
President Bill Clinton at the March 1995 Radio-TV Correspondents dinner.
Sporks, for those of you who have been spared, are the dreaded half-spoon, half-fork utensils handed out by some fast-food places that have tines too short to spear anything but are strategically placed to make sure anything liquid winds up on your necktie, blouse, shirt or navel - depending on your choice of attire.
Jan Glidewell, St. Petersburg Times, July 28, 1996.
- The Century Dictionary
- Small Fry attempting to get peek at yule gifts may be caught in act, New York Times, December 20, 1952.
- Gazette, US Patent and Trademark Office, August 11, 1970.
- D. Green & Co. (Stoke Newington) Ltd and Plastico Ltd v Regalzone Ltd  ETMR 241 (CA).
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