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Wooden Spoon

The last of the honour men —i.e. of the Junior Optimes, in the Cambridge University. Sometimes two or more “last” men are bracketed together, in which case the group is termed the spoon bracket. It is said that these men are so called because in days of yore they were presented with a wooden spoon, while the other honour men had a silver or golden one, a spoon being the usual prix de mèrite instead of a medal. (See Wooden Wedge.)

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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