"n. a three-pronged fork, such as a pickle fork, curved like a spoon and having a cutting edge."
-- the American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Edition
But quite frankly, I don't think that's what Mr. Lear had in mind.
Yes, of course, The Owl and the Pussycat did dine on mince and slices of quince, which they ate "with a runcible spoon." Everyone knows that.
And yes, there is a kind of three-pronged spoon that is used for eating fruit. If you looked through that drawer of random utensils you have in your kitchen, you might even find one of those.
However, I'm sorry to say that Edward Lear was probably long gone by the time that the "fruit spoon" and the "runcible spoon" came to be one and the same.
Certainly, when Lear invented the word in 1871 he didn't mean it to have anything to do with forks or fruit or anything of the sort. More than likely, when he said "runcible", what he meant was "comically large", playing off the word "rounceval", a much more stately-sounding term that means about the same thing. You just have to take a closer look at the rest of his writings to see that's what he meant. Much like the inimitable Humpty Dumpty, Lear was always one to "make a word do a lot of work". He used the word "runcible" quite a few times, and not always in reference to spoons.
Thanks to the many splendiferous wonders of the Internet*, I've been able to grep through the text of virtually every line he put to paper, and pick out all the relevant bits. Check this out...
(* - http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear ... isn't technology wonderful?)
Here's two good ones I found in his book Laughable Lyrics, published 1877:
'What has come to your fiddledum head!
'What a runcible goose you are!'
'We shall presently all be dead,
On this ancient runcible wall.'
'He has gone to fish, for his Aunt Jobiska's
Runcible Cat with crimson whiskers!'
The first two are excerpts from the poem "Mr. and Mrs. Discobbolos
", the third is from "The Pobble Who Has No Toes
". Note that Mr. and Mrs. Discobbolos, along with all of their 12 children, have lived atop that "runcible wall" all their lives, so you'd imagine it'd be a big
In the collection called Queery Leary Nonsense (1911) there's a picture series of 20 coloured birds, all fictional. The sixth one is called "The Runcible Bird", and is a picture of a bird with fantastically long legs.
Lear even used the word to describe himself. For instance, in The Self-Portrait of the Laureate of Nonsense:
He has many friends, lay men and clerical,
Old Foss is the name of his cat;
His body is perfectly spherical,
He weareth a runcible hat.
And, last but not least in his book More Nonsense Pictures, Rhymes, Botany, &c. he offers a set of "Twenty-six Nonsense Rhymes and Pictures", one for each letter of the alphabet.
For 'R', beneath an illustration of a raven large enough to carry off a broom, he added the caption:
The Rural Runcible Raven,
who wore a White Wig and flew away
with the Carpet Broom
Also, and here's the real clincher:
The Dolomphious Duck,
who caught Spotted Frogs for her dinner
with a Runcible Spoon."
Yep, you heard right. There's even a picture of the duck. And the frogs. And the Runcible Spoon.
(See for yourself! http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear/MN/nr1.html)
This spoon has no prongs, or serrated edges, or any of the crazy things that those crafty silversmiths and dictionarians would have you believe.
What it has is a long, exaggerated handle ending in a wide, flat-bottomed scoop. More like a ladle really. How you'd eat mince and quince with that is really quite beyond me. But then again, it's not entirely clear how a cat and an owl would go about using any kind of spoon.
I realize that I've now wasted far too much of your time arguing about made-up words and nonsense rhymes, and for that I'm truly sorry. That's time that could have been better spent dancing by the light of the moon (the moon, the moon, they danced by the light of the moon...)