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Contamination in the language: the history of the fork

When did we start eating with a fork?


The Venetian dialect has borrowed at least 300 Greek words, which are mainly related to the building field. There is one in particular that has become very popular because it is used in everyday life: the word “piron”. It means exactly a small toggle, or a fork with two prongs.

Thanks to trading with the Eastern countries, Venice was one of the first city-states that introduced its use at the table.

According to tradition, a legend goes to confirm this: a Venetian doge married a Greek-speaking Byzantine princess. It is said that during a lunch the princess took an object out of her purse with two prongs and began to use it to bring food to her mouth.

The Venetian nobility considered the use of her object a snobbish attitude because she did not want to touch food with her hands like they did. In addition, the fork came from a foreign land and was branded as a negative object and associated to a pitchfork. However, starting from the 11th century the Venetians began to use it always more often.


Before its invention it was normal to eat with hands or use sharp knives or spoons. In 1300 the fork was already part of the deal when pasta was eaten. Pasta was too hot and also too slippery to pick it up just with hands.


In 1500 the fork was a must at banquets and was part of the good rules of bon ton.

In the 17th century it took on a more curved shape to be able to pull peas off the plate.

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