Over time, this implement changed shape and began being used specifically for stirring oatmeal and soups. It is similar to an ordinary stirring spoon, but the bowl of the spoon has been removed since a wide area would cause enough pressure to tear cooked oats apart. It looks like a fat wooden dowel, often with a contoured end to give the user a better grip. Defined as a stirring stick, it is in common use throughout Scotland, although it is rarer in Angus and Fife where the term theevil is used.
The word may derive from the Latin spatula.
There is a World Porridge Cooking Contest known as "The Golden Spurtle".