Posted by: Jack Henry | April 19, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Do You Have Enough Spoons?

Have any of you heard someone say that they don’t have enough spoons? Or maybe you read a tweet from someone who said they were having a low spoon day. I just learned about “spoon theory” from Mignon Fogarty, also known as Grammar Girl. This theory is extremely relevant now, with so many people suffering from long COVID and other chronic illnesses or disabilities that leave them feeling persistently exhausted.

It turns out that spoons are a metaphor for energy. If you don’t have enough spoons, you just don’t have the fuel you need to get everything done—or maybe even to get out of bed.

Here is the origin of spoon theory, from Grammar Girl’s recent post:

A woman with lupus named Christine Miserandino came up with the metaphor on the fly when she was a college student, and her good friend and roommate asked her what it felt like to have lupus – not what the symptoms were, but what it felt like to live with lupus.

The two women were in a dining hall, and after casting around for a few seconds, Christine grabbed a bunch of spoons and handed them to her friend. Then she said something like “Imagine that every time you do something, it costs you a spoon.” Getting out of bed? One spoon gone. She took a spoon away. Showering? Another spoon gone. And so on. She went on to explain that people with disabilities or who are sick start with fewer spoons than other people, and some things that wouldn’t cost a healthy person any spoons at all, like maybe getting dressed, can cost someone with lupus a spoon or two.

And the friend started to realize that Christine had to manage her metaphorical spoons because she only got so many each day. When you have a chronic illness or disability, you aren’t going to be able to do every single thing you want or need to do before you run out of spoons.

Wow. What a clear and powerful explanation. I think all of us have had days when we just don’t have enough spoons. This analogy really demonstrates what it’s like for people living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.

I wonder if using spoons as a way to talk about energy levels will become more widespread. Will it become a common English idiom? Will it become a well-known expression in other languages? I guess we have to wait and see.

I hope you all have plenty of spoons today!

Donna Bradley Burcher |Technical Editor, Advisory | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

Pronouns she/her/hers

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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