From Academic Kids

Missing image
A spork manufactured by Folgate Silver Plate company during the late 1800s.

A spork sometimes known as a foon is an unusual kind of cutlery. It is based upon a spoon, with the addition of the tines of a fork, and sometimes the serrated edge of a knife. Canonically, there are three or four tines. The spork has been patented several times, the latest patent in 1994 by Hubert Gagnon, which will expire in 2012. The implement is the subject of several urban legends, one being that the United States military forced the Japanese to use them instead of chopsticks after they occupied Japan in the Second World War, while the other is that the Nazis invented them for use with field ration kits issued to German front line troops in World War II. Sporks are quite versatile and are used by numerous fast food restaurants and by backpackers, who carry them to avoid carrying both a spoon and a fork in their packs.



The word spork is a portmanteau word combining the words spoon and fork. 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.

Van Brode Milling Company [1970] spork  application drawing.
Van Brode Milling Company [1970] spork trademark application drawing.

The word spork originated 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 States, the spork itself was patented by Robert P. Julius on February 7, 1978 with patent number D247,153 for a period of 14 years. An earlier patent that is very close to the idea of the spork is U.S. Patent 904,553, or a "Cutting spoon", granted on November 24, 1908. This was a spoon that had a cutting edge and thus was similar to the multi-faceted spork. A newer design of the spork was patented on January 6, 1998 by Hubert Gagnon and will expire in 2012 (see patent D388,664).

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."


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. It does have a small amount of truth, though, as sporks became widely known in Japan after the 1940s in the aftermath of World War II. Sporks were adopted as a utensil in addition to chopsticks for school lunches in many school districts as a cost cutting measure and the alternative to buying spoons and forks. This practice went out of favor in the late 1980s because sporks were criticized for introducing bad eating habits. This is referenced in the beginning of the final episode of FLCL, an anime, when school teacher Miya-jun attempts to teach her class proper use of chopsticks...and can't operate them herself. The students immeadiately begin pining for their sporks.

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

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Lightweight titanium spork made for backpacking.

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. 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 spork is used in a number of fast food restaurants, particularly Yum! Brands franchises, including Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and El Pollo Loco. 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.

Sporks, especially the lighter types, are favored by backpackers, rather than carrying the extra weight of a fork and spoon.

The pastry fork has a similar combination: it combines a fork and a knife, for one handed cutting-and-spearing.


  • The Century Dictionary (http://www.global-language.com/CENTURY/)
  • "Small Fry attempting to get peek at yule gifts may be caught in act" (December 20, 1952). New York Times.
  • Gazette, US Patent and Trademark Office, August 11, 1970.
  • D. Green & Co. (Stoke Newington) Ltd and Plastico Ltd v Regalzone Ltd [2002] ETMR 241 (CA).

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