The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #75102   Message #1316146
Posted By: Malcolm Douglas
04-Nov-04 - 04:17 AM
Thread Name: Wee pen knife
Subject: RE: Wee pen knife
And, in English, dirk (or durk). They aren't very big (I think that the Bowie knife is considerably larger, though it's a while since I've seen one), and would also serve as pen-knives in the old sense; or as a general tool and handy means of cutting up food: probably their main use in the past, though also, sadly, a convenient weapon in drunken brawls. Boy Scouts used to carry very similar, but slightly larger, sheath knives; though I expect that's illegal now. The modern, miniature "penknife" is not what is meant here.

I don't believe for a moment in that "weapon knife" business. I gather that it was a pet theory of Tony Cuffe's, but there seems to be no linguistic or historical evidence at all to support it. See, for example, this old discussion on the Scots-l list:

Ballad question