“It’s a dinglehopper!”
One of my favorite scenes from Disney’s The Little Mermaid - when princess Ariel collects a bunch of “human stuff” and takes it to the wise sage Scuttle for interpretation.
She hands him a fork, he calls it a dinglehopper, and he explains how it’s used for combing your hair.
The thing is, he wasn’t wrong. He made up a story informed by the thing he’s holding. You can comb your hair with a fork, it makes sense.
The big upset comes later in the movie, when Ariel is sitting at dinner and uses the fork to comb her hair.
This is one of my favorite things about functional objects - that if you change the context around the object, you change the meaning. And in the case of Ariel and the fork, not only did the meaning change, but the function changed.
Objects are not inherently meaningful.
We subject them to meaning.
Published on by Eric Trine.