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One Word: "Fork," by Thylias Moss

Sarabande Books is publishing a fascinating new anthology entitled, One Word: Contemporary Writers on the Words They Love or Loathe. The editor, Molly McQuade, asked 66 writers the question, "What one word means the most to you, and why?" Among the essays McQuade has collected is "Sixpack," an exploration of six words by the experimental writer Thylias Moss. Tucker Capps has drawn from Moss's musings on the word fork to create a captivating short film.


To begin with what happens when saying fork in English, when a native speaker, to limit this beginning further, speaks fork, the upper central incisor teeth almost bite the f of the word into the lower lip, and air is forced through the opening.

To fork is to have more than one way to go, to split, to increase options, each one of which may be referred to as a prong or tine.

To fork is to use a fork, possibly to create a system of bifurcations, possibly to choose a particular avenue or tine for some period of time.

To fork is to lift.

To fork is to dig into and possibly separate or filter with the branches or prongs.

There is definitely the likelihood of loss, through the branches or prongs, of some portion of what is being accessed, what is being forked up.

Each evolutionary branch and subbranch is an evolutionary fork or sub-fork.

The arm and hand system is a forking system.

The digits or fingers of the hand are bifurcations or tines.

The broken bone is a forked bone.

A tree is a bifurcating system of branches.

A bifurcating system is a forking system.

A palm reader reads forks.

A palm tree is a binary fork system, as are most trees.

Bifurcating roots and bifurcating branches, the apple, fig, coconut; fruit as bulbous tines, grapes as bulbous tines in clusters, wine as bulbous tines liquefied.

A bird's foot.

Scissors are on an evolutionary branch of the fork family.

A maze or labyrinth is a forking system.

The nervous system is a forking system.

There is no maximum number of tines that a fork may have.

The space between tines may be wide or narrow.

When the space between tines is imperceptible on a scale of human aided or unaided perception, the fork may be considered as and may function practically as a shovel.

A circular closed tine may also be a hoop, ring, loop, feedback loop; a system of at least two closed tine loops can also be used to indicate infinity or the bones of a bow tie.

Many deadends are also tines.

This consideration of fork has been forking in order to consider fork; this commentary has forked as a literary device.


Film by Tucker Capps, inspired by One Word: Contemporary Writers on the Words They Love or Loathe, published by Sarabande Books. Drawn from "Sixpack" by Thylias Moss, one of 66 writers' 66 essays about beloved, loathed, and forgotten words.


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Comments from our users:

Wednesday September 29th 2010, 5:16 AM
Comment by: Bernadette H. (London United Kingdom)
This explains why I can't pick up peas.
Wednesday September 29th 2010, 5:47 AM
Comment by: Kip (Brookfield, WI)
Thylias forgot one other use of the word fork: "to speak with forked tongue" is to be many "tines" separated from the truth.
Wednesday September 29th 2010, 9:44 AM
Comment by: Ben Zimmer (New York, NY)Visual Thesaurus ContributorVisual Thesaurus Moderator
Kip: These sentences are drawn from a longer essay, so rest assured that Ms. Moss covers the "forked tongue" meaning elsewhere in her multi-pronged observations.
Thursday September 30th 2010, 8:44 PM
Comment by: Kip (Brookfield, WI)
Ben: thanks for "pointing" that out. I must've been thinking with a single tine.
Saturday October 16th 2010, 8:44 AM
Comment by: omar B. (detroit, MI)
Fork You!
Tuesday December 21st 2010, 4:24 PM
Comment by: Gary L.
I suppose chop-sticks are an evolutionary bifurcating system. The next visit to a Chinese restaurant will make for some interesting conversation.

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