A Pencil Is a Many-Splendored Thing

Pencils have been around for hundreds of years, and still show no signs of fading away.

Their most obvious usages for pencils are writing, erasing, and drawing, but there is so much more to this simple invention.

For example, pencils could be used for:

  • racing. I clearly remember having pencil races in grade school, seeing which pencil was the fastest one to roll down from the top of a desk. Ridged yellow pencils stood no chance against its smoothed surface cousins.
  • throwing. Another grade school past time; trying to see who could throw their pencil up in the air and get it stuck in the ceiling. In an odd twist, if you won, you also kind of lost.
  • drumming. who hasn’t beat their pencil on a tabletop in tune to their favorite song?
  • chewing. I am a notorious pencil chewer. I remember in grade school chewing pencils so much that they would eventually break in half.
  • scratching. both ourselves and lottery tickets.
  • stirring. paint, coffee, lemonade, you name it.
  • poking and stabbing. I guess every great invention has a dark side.
  • popping. balloons or package filling, the sharper the point, the better the popping.
  • spelling out words. if you’re stuck on a remote island, and all you’ve got are thousands of pencils, you could use them to spell out “HELP” in large letters.
  • avoiding school work. Another grade school memory. I can recall asking all of my classmates if their pencils needed sharpening, and then once I had accumulated enough and was bored enough, I could go to the back of the room and sharpen them.

And using this post as an example, when you can’t think of anything to write about, pencils could serve as the subject of a frivolous essay.

32 thoughts on “A Pencil Is a Many-Splendored Thing

  1. Pencils should surely make a comeback with their plastic free selves, though I’m not sure if there are any issues with graphite mining. Your pencils at school had a happier fate than some in our classroom. I believe we had to ask the teacher’s permission to use the industrial pencil sharpener fixed firmly on the edge of her desk and caution was necessary- I recall one boy inserting his pencil and vigorously turning the handle till he was left with only a stub.


  2. They can also be used for tattoos. I had a classmate jab my finger with a sharp pencil when in grade school. The injury was minor, but a small amount of graphite remains to this day. A small grayish dot that would have to be considered my first, though unwanted, tattoo.


  3. We used to have Hobby Day in my classroom when I was teaching elementary school. There were always a few kids who had elaborate collections. We also had a pencil vending machine in our library so that kids could add to their collections for a quarter. One year I had a student who decided he wanted to collect pencil shavings. Kind of an odd thing to collect, but he was a quirky, interesting child. He used to empty the classroom sharpener and dump the shavings into a large grocery bag. 😂


  4. I was a big gnawer of pencils – lead – in grade school. What I left encased in the wood, I’d draw with endlessly for hours. The real magic starred when I discovered color pencils. Let’s keep pencils around forever.


  5. Since you mentioned grade school, I hope you’ll only roll your eyes a little at this old joke:
    Knock knock!
    Who’s there?
    Dull Pencil!
    Dull pencil who?
    Never mind, it was pointless 🤓


  6. It’s important to note that all standardized test in the public school system requires the use of the number 2 lead pencil that was many years ago when I was in middle and high school. I wonder do public school use the number 2 pencil or is it done electronically. Also, the use of the jumbo pencils for elementary students.. thanks for taking me back Jim


    1. ah, yes, LaShawn, I had forgotten about the link between pencils and standardized tests (and I’m happy to have forgotten 🙂 )
      I also forgot about those jumbo ones – now I want one!


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