Ariel from Disneys’ The Little Mermaid has her very own set of vocabulary for human objects. Her name for the word fork is especially interesting.
Ariel calls a fork a “dinglehopper” in The Little Mermaid. The word dinglehopper was invented by Ariels friend Scuttle the sea gull who is known for making up words for human things.
But what is it about this fork?
Why does Ariel call forks “dinglehoppers”? (Scuttles fault)
First we see the fork at the beginning of the movie when Ariel finds it in the sunken ship. When talking to the sea gull Scuttle she finds out that the object is supposedly called a “dinglehopper” and that humans use it as a comb.
In the world of the mermaids no one really used to talk to the humans as Triton hated them and did not let his merpeople near them. However, Ariels friend Scuttle sometimes gets a glimpse of the humans as he is a bird and can easily fly across the shore and villages where they live.
Scuttle is by no means an expert on human things. But Ariel trusts him and instantly adopts the vocabulary and how humans allegedly use it.
Why did Scuttle give the name “dinglehopper” to the fork?
The word dinglehopper does not really exist in the English language. But you can deduct what it is supposed to mean by looking at the two words it is made up of.
In my opinion Disney chose “dingle” and “hopper” deliberately as it can mean as much as “food feeder” – which is quite fitting for a fork.
“Dingle” is closely related to the word “to dangle” and a hopper is a “feeder” (like a funnel) that is used in technical machines. Thus, a feeder that has something dangling on it (the food), could be seen as a fork that you use to impale your food which in turn then dangles from the feeder.
I like to imagine Scuttle or one of his bird friends saw some humans eat spaghetti with forks which would explain the dangling association. That would even make sense because The Little Mermaid takes place in Italy and spaghetti is like one of their national dishes.
But of course we don’t know exactly what went through the minds of Disney when they made up this word. Let me know in comments what you think!
The only question that remains regarding this theory is why Scuttle tells Ariel the fork is used as a comb when the name dinglehopper quite clearly tells us its actual use (food feeder)…
Well, Scuttle isn’t the brightest little bird. We can see that he is often a bit confused and might forget some facts here and there.
I think he only heard the word from his bird friends but did not know the use himself. Instead he made something up on the spot or simply confused the fork with a comb. A comb does look somewhat similar after all.
In this clip you can see that Scuttle has to think a moment about what the dinglehopper is:
Scuttle: “Look at this. Wow. This is special. This is very very unusual.”
Ariel: “What? What is it?”
Scuttle: “It’s a dinglehopper. Humans use these little babies to straighten their hair out.”
Afterward he explains what a snarfblatt is (a pipe) and also notes that he hasn’t seen one of these in years.
It’s obvious that he does not see these objects all that often. So its no wonder that he mixes them up and gives Ariel a wrong explanation for how to call and use it.
Why is the fork so important in The Little Mermaid?
The fork can be seen as a symbol of Ariels curiosity and longing for the human world. For Ariel it is extremely fascinating but also forbidden, so she tries everything possible to find out more about the humans and thus even gets herself into quite the dangerous situation.
The fork aka the dinglehopper comes up several times throughout the movie. After finding it in the sunken ship at the beginning of the movie, Scuttle identifies the strange object as a dinglehopper. Ariel is absolutely fascinated by it and keeps it safe in her treasure grotto.
But unfortunately King Triton is not pleased at all when he finds out about Ariels collection of human things and destroys them which in turn leads Ariel to seek the help of the sea witch Ursula…
After her deal with Ursula and stepping foot on land, Ariel is then finally uncovering the mystery of the dinglehopper at Erics castle. She finds out that a fork is an eating utensil and gets to use one herself just like the humans.
After spending so much time wondering about the dinglehopper and the humans, Ariel is thus for the first time ever “part of this world” – exactly what she wished for at the beginning of the movie when the fork was still a mystery to her.
(But this is also the point in the movie where she has to fight to stay in this newly discovered world.)