It is said to have been Cardinal Richelieu’s disgust with a frequent dinner guest’s habit of picking his teeth with the pointed end of his knife that drove the prelate to order all the points of his table knives ground down.  In 1669, as a measure to reduce violence, King Louis XIV made pointed knives illegal, whether at the table or on the street.  Such actions, coupled with the growing widespread use of forks, gave the table knife its now familiar blunt-tipped blade.  Toward the end of the seventeenth century, the blade curved into a scimitar shape, but this contour was to be modified over the next century to become less weaponlike.  The blunt end became more prominent, not merely to emphasize its bluntness but, since the paired fork was likely to be two-tined and so not an efficient scoop, to serve as a surface onto which food might be heaped for conveying to the mouth.  Peas and other small discrete foods, which had been eaten by being pierced one by one with a knife point or a fork tine, could now be eaten more efficiently by being piled on the knife blade, whose increasingly backward curve made it possible to insert the food-laden tip into the mouth with less contortion of the wrist.  During this time, the handles on some knife-and-fork sets became pistol-shaped, thus complementing the curve of the knife blade but making the fork look curiously asymmetrical.

––  The Evolution of Useful Things (How Everyday Artifacts–from Forks and Pins to Paper Clips and Zippers–Came to Be as They Are) by Henry Petroski  p 12


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