15.218 runcible, from nothing

From: Willard McCarty (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Tue Sep 04 2001 - 01:36:28 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 218.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Tue, 04 Sep 2001 06:16:30 +0100
             From: "Norman D. Hinton" <hinton@springnet1.com>
             Subject: Re: 15.217 runcible

    Sigh. Runcible seems to be one of those words that just inspires folk
    etymology (like "posh", but let's don't get started on that!)

    Etymologists pretty much agree that 'runcible' was a coinage by Lear (as
    "Kodak" by Eastman), but various suggestions have been made about what
    inspired him...the number of words made up from absolutely nothing is
    very small indeed. "Roncesvalles" hs been suggested from time to time,
    especially in the form of "rouncy", meaning something big and clumsy
    (cf. the Canterbury Tales, where the Shipman has clearly been given the
    worst horse in the rent-a-horse shop --"He rode upon a rouncy, as he
    kouthe" [e.g. he rode about as you'd expect a sailor to ride]) CT, A
    390. The term has been applied to clumsy women & horses, large peas,
    warts, etc.....cf the American Heritage Dictionary.

    But the application of 'rouncy' to 'runcible' comes with no data at
    all. It's just a guess, and it's hard to see how the senses large,
    awkward apply to Lear's spoon. The runcible grapefruit spoon was named
    from the poem (as "quark" was from Finnegans Wake).

    Dr Willard McCarty / Senior Lecturer /
    Centre for Computing in the Humanities / King's College London /
    Strand / London WC2R 2LS / U.K. /
    +44 (0)20 7848-2784 / ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/

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