Your Word of the Week: Runcible

Here’s a word that can be most diplomatically described as versatile, and at worst an impediment to thought. As you read on, you’ll find it has more than a little in common with the words “liberal” and “conservative.”

runcible (n.? adj.? anything?) – This word has no meaning.

Yet it’s in dictionaries! Most often it’s in there as part of the phrase “runcible spoon,” which is defined as something similar to a spork, or a pickle fork. This is just inaccurate. Let’s see why.

In the late 1800s there was a writer named Edward Lear who wrote poems and stories for children. “The Owl and the Pussycat” is one of his most well-known. “Runcible” was a nonsense word he invented, apparently more for the sound and the rhythm than for any actual meaning. He did use the phrase “runcible spoon” a few times (without referent), but he also spoke of runcible cats, hats, walls, and so on. It never meant anything.

But when we bring a Word of the Week to our devoted readers, we feel an obligation to show it used in a sentence. And so we reason, just as most beltway pundits do, that if a word doesn’t mean anything precise, then we can get away with using it in any way we damn well please, as in:

If you don’t stop saying runcible, I will runcible you right in the runcible.

And that’s enough of this runcible word.

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