So what is it?
The humble pen is in fact a wondrous thing. A pen is best thought of as a vehicle to deliver ink or other such pigments to a writing or other surface. This is typically done through a reservoir of ink in either a central vessel or within the body of the pen itself, and a nib (end) of the pen to regulate the flow through to the writing surface.

The origin of the pen is a natural evolution of the old stylus used to press shapes in to clay tablets. With a limited supply of suitable clay, other methods were used - chisels to drive sharp, durable styli (sp?) in to stone, and eventually the pigmentation of whatever was laying around - dead animal skin (hide), your cave wall, or any other suitable surface.

However as with most implements that have been around for a long time, there are many variations on this common central base. The most common pen these days is the ballpoint pen. Due to its ubiquitous modern nature, we shall concentrate on this wondrous device.

The Ballpoint Pen
Mass-manufactured, they are almost ubiquitous in their presence - home, work, boats, rockets, unmanned spy drones, operating theatres - all usually sport a ballpoint pen of some description. They are commonly made of 4 components - a barrel of plastic with a screw thread at both ends. In to the barrel fits a refill plastic dispenser filled with ink and an integrated ballpoint for regulating a small flow of ink to the writing surface - an internal ball is slightly smaller than the surrounding casing, allowing a dribble of ink to flow at a regular rate. The ink is viscous enough not to run everywhere (most of the time) at normal tempuratures. The refill is shaped like a straw and is thin enough that capillary action draws a constant supply of ink to the tip. The other elements of a ballpoint are a guiding nib to hold the ballpoint at the centre of the barrel; and an endpiece, to stop the otherwise unsecured refill from being pushed out the end of the barrel. Both of these are screw threaded to attach to the barrel.

Also available are fountain pens with a reservoir of liquid ink in the one-piece barrel, with an elaborate nib attached that separates with pressure to slowly dribble out the ink.

So what is so great about the pen? Well, it can be used for so much more than just write with. The barrel of a ballpoint pen alone can be used for so many things!

Try wadding some paper up, chewing and moistening it in your mouth, and then lodging the "ball" in the end of the barrel. Pushed a little further in, you can build up a huge blast of air with a puff of your cheeks and propel the "spitball" at huge speeds ofver vast distances!* With a little practice, you can develop amazing accuracy and performance for something that costs less than a dollar!

Medical safety
Someone choking? Can't dislodge it with the Heimlich maneuver? Caught in the upper trachea? Everyone should know how to perform your own cricothyroidotomy. It may save someones life!

Groin grabbing-ly good showpiece
The long, stable nature of all pens allow them to be twirled around a finger or wrist with suitable practice. Mathematics students everywhere have seen those talented chums spinning their pen over and around their fingers. Websites have been established. Women have been wooed. Money has been won. All from the humble pen!

MORE Weaponry!
A pen is essentially a small sword. Think about it!

Collectors items
Antique and rare pens are real value items, especially in online trading markets like Ebay. The pen Adolf Hitler used would be worth a fortune, if unachievable, whereas a limited edition Mont Blanc can appreciate monetary value in the space of six short months!

STILL MORE Weaponry!
DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. This stunt conducted by untrained unprofessionals
Get together a number of metallic barrels. Although harder to find, they withstand the devastating temperatures unleashed... Tape the barrels together. With a number of accomplices, gather sparklers together and arrange one inside each barrel, with the "business ends" of the sparklers brought together to a point. Take a lid from a tin can, shape it to look like a bowl. Drill a hole big enough for ONE sparkler, and fit the end securely attached to the numerous barrels. Stick one sparkler through for a fuse. Light the fuse, drop, run.

Body art
Got a girl/boyfriend? Want to live forever with the memory of them? Got more passion than sense? Try this!


With a pocket knife, cut your beloved's name in to your arm. It doesn't have to be deep, just enough to break the skin. Then, or maybe before, cut the nib off a refill and blow the thick ink out. With your newly-acquired love wounds, rub the ink as hard as you can in to the cuts. Forever will your love be visible, especially after the scars heal and you GET OUT OF HOSPITAL!

As you can see, the pen can be used not only for inscribing on paper, but it can leave your unique mark on a person choking, your fellow students, gathering hordes of fans, the neighbours letterbox, and your prison-buddies' arm!
DejaMorgana says Another way pens can be turned into weapons is by removing the top half of the pen and using the spring to fire the cartridge at people. Astonishingly long range, stupidly low accuracy. Much fun for all.

Pen, an instrument for writing with a fluid. Pens of some sort have been in use from very early times, adapted to the material on which the characters were to be inscribed. The metallic stilus for the production of incised letters was probably the earliest writing implement. It was used by the Romans for writing on tablets coated with wax; but both they and the Greeks also used what is the true ancient representative of the modern pen, namely, a hollow reed, as is yet common in Eastern countries. It has been asserted that quills were used for writing as early as the 5th century A.D. In 1803 Wise produced steel pens of a barrel form, mounted in a bone case for carrying in the pocket. They were of indifferent make, and being expensive, were little used. Joseph Gillott commenced the manufacture about 1820, and succeeded in making the pen of thinner and more elastic steel, giving it a higher temper and finish. Mr. Gillott was followed into the same field by Mr. Perry and others, and their improvement so reduced the cost and raised the quality, that a gross of better pens are now sold by the same makers at less than one-sixth of the price of a single pen in 1821. Gold pens tipped with minute particles of iridium are now in extensive use, and a good one will last for years. Fountain pens and penholders, to carry a considerable supply of ink and to discharge it in an equal manner, were invented by Joseph Bramah.

Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

Pen (?), n. [OE. penne, OF. penne, pene, F. penne, fr. L. penna.]


A feather.




A wing.




An instrument used for writing with ink, formerly made of a reed, or of the quill of a goose or other bird, but now also of other materials, as of steel, gold, etc. Also, originally, a stylus or other instrument for scratching or graving.

Graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock. Job xix. 24.


Fig.: A writer, or his style; as, he has a sharp pen.

"Those learned pens."


5. Zool.

The internal shell of a squid.

6. [Etymol. uncertain.] Zool.

A female swan.

[Prov. Eng.]<-- contrast cob, the male swan -->

Bow pen. See Bow-pen. -- Dotting pen, a pen for drawing dotted lines. -- Drawing, ∨ Ruling, pen, a pen for ruling lines having a pair of blades between which the ink is contained. -- Fountain pen, Geometric pen. See under Fountain, and Geometric. -- Music pen, a pen having five points for drawing the five lines of the staff. -- Pen and ink, ∨ pen-and-ink, executed or done with a pen and ink; as, a pen and ink sketch. -- Pen feather. A pin feather. [Obs.] -- Pen name. See under Name. -- Sea pen Zool., a pennatula. [Usually written [sea-pen[.]


© Webster 1913.

Pen, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Penned (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Penning (?).]

To write; to compose and commit to paper; to indite; to compose; as, to pen a sonnet.

"A prayer elaborately penned."



© Webster 1913.

Pen, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Penned (?) or Pent (); p. pr. & vb. n. Penning.] [OE. pennen, AS. pennan in on-pennan to unfasten, prob. from the same source as pin, and orig. meaning, to fasten with a peg.See Pin, n. & v.]

To shut up, as in a pen or cage; to confine in a small inclosure or narrow space; to coop up, or shut in; to inclose.

"Away with her, and pen her up."


Watching where shepherds pen their flocks at eve. Milton.


© Webster 1913.

Pen, n. [From Pen to shut in.]

A small inclosure; as, a pen for sheep or for pigs.

My father stole two geese out of a pen. Shak.


© Webster 1913.

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