Sunday throat (1905); Peas with a knife (1828); Ears lowered (1947)

David Bowie db.list at PMPKN.NET
Tue May 4 12:54:13 UTC 2004

From:    George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>

: In the humor of the early 20th C, (I'm thinking of cartoons here,
: maybe,) a touchstone of commonness was eating peas balanced on the
: blade of a knife -- that, and pouring coffee into the saucer to cool,
: then drinking it from the saucer.

I just finished reading Henry Petroski's _The evolution of useful things_.
In the first chapter he describes the evolution of the fork, and how the
fork and knife working together (or even just the fork alone) came to
replace the knife alone as the primary method of eating using utensils.
While the fork was still evolving, and not yet very good at scooping things
up (only two tines!), knives developed blunt and very wide ends to be used
in scooping things up and putting them in the mouth. Once the fork developed
more tines, using the knife as a scoop fell out of fashion, and was seen as
old-fashioned enough to be impolite.

This switchover from the knife as a scoop to the fork is datable, though I
don't immediately recall when the switch occurred, and so (in a desparate
attempt to make this post topical!) the origin of the rhyme probably doesn't
date back any further than when the switch was nearly complete.

David Bowie                               
    Jeanne's Two Laws of Chocolate: If there is no chocolate in the
    house, there is too little; some must be purchased. If there is
    chocolate in the house, there is too much; it must be consumed.

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