A spatula is a small implement with a broad, flat, flexible blade used to mix, spread and lift materials including foods, drugs, plaster and paints. It derives from the Latin word for a flat piece of wood or splint (a diminutive form of the Latin spatha, meaning broadsword), and hence can also refer to a tongue depressor. The words spade (digging tool) and spathe are similarly derived. The word spatula is known to have been used in English since 1525.
Spatulas are usually used to level out a dry measuring cup. It is a tool with 2 flat edges on a flexible blade. A spatula is usually short and about 8 inches long. A spatula also refers to a turner which is used to flip over pancakes and meat patties.
In the kitchen
American English usage
In kitchen utensils, a spatula is any utensil fitting the above description. One variety is used to lift and flip food items during cooking, such as pancakes and fillets. These are usually made of plastic, with a wooden or plastic handle to insulate them from heat.
British English usage
In British English a spatula is similar in shape to a palette knife without holes in a flexible and or detachable blade. A wide-bladed utensil with long holes in a solid blade used for turning food is a fish slice.
In laboratories, spatulas and microspatulas are small stainless steel utensils, used for scraping, transferring, or applying powders and paste like chemicals or treatments.
The "Weird Al" Yankovic comedy film UHF features an ad for a fictional outlet store called Spatula City that sells nothing but spatulas (most are of the "turner" variety, though examples of the "scraper" variety are visible in both the Graduation and Birthdays sections of the store in the ad). The ad features people getting very excited over receiving spatulas, including children at Christmas and women getting them as romantic gifts.
Over the years several technical writers have aspired to hide the word 'Spatula' inside of their published works. They have however failed utterly, and therefore you will rarely see the word 'Spatula' in any published technical documentation. In certain circles of writers, a personal challenge has been issues to find a way to integrate 'Spatula' within the context and to make it seem as it if does in fact fit properly with the writing. For example: 'Prise the chassis open with a spatula, or any other flat tool. (A chisel or putty knife will work if you do not have a spatula). As of yet, a 'spatula' citing has not been found in any published articles.
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- "Etymology OnLine". Retrieved 2007-05-24.
- "Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Retrieved 2007-06-20.
- "AskOxford.com". Retrieved 2010-03-14.
- Harrison, Garry. "Microspatula". Retrieved 10 August 2013. "For example, they are excellent for scraping, applying methyl cellulose to a book spine to remove the old adhesive, delaminating the layers of board, and lifting delicate materials and helping them back into place, during the performance of repair treatments. They are made of stainless or tool steel and are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes."