Cutlery personification: an example of sequence-personality synesthesia?

I’ve had a lot of fun finding out about this phenomenon, which as far as I know has never been formally researched. It’s something I’ve perceived since childhood and it was great to discover that others had it too and weird to find that their cutlery personalities were all so different from mine, when they had always seemed so obvious to me.

Personifying series or sequences of abstract concepts such as letters, numbers, days or months is considered a type of synesthesia. Personality and human characteristics, appearance and relationships are consistently and involuntarily attributed to each item in the sequence, and the name given to this is called ordinal linguistic personification (often abbreviated to OLP). As to personifying objects in general, it isn’t usually considered synesthesia, especially if they don't form part of a sequence. However, there might be a case for including the “cutlery people” phenomenon within the orbit of personification synesthesia, as although they are objects we can pick up, handle and look at, we tend to be taught the names of silverware in a set order (“Knife-fork-spoon”) so they are also learnt as a sequence. Many synesthetes seem to personify them, although of course there haven’t been any studies to show whether this is something that occurs in the general population and not just synesthetes, so it might or might not be something we can consider a synesthesia type.

The people who let me into the secrets of their cutlery families agreed that the personalities haven’t changed throughout their lifetimes. Sometimes they clearly represent typical characters, stereotypes even, from the time when they were growing up, which is also a common feature of ordinal linguistic personification. Their surprise or even mild annoyance can also be seen when they realise that other people see knives, forks and spoons as having different genders and personalities than theirs.

Here’s part of my collection of descriptions.

(Source: asking personally on Reddit and Facebook and my own experience.)


"Butterknife is a gentleman and is kind to all.
Sharp knife is mean and he’s related to the butterknife but they’re nowhere near the same personalities.
Fork is male with spiky hair and is wild & rambunctious.
Spoon is my favorite! She’s sweet, kind and bubbly and will get along with everyone else, except sharp knife.
Teaspoon is a toddler of the spoon and sometimes shy.”

“For me the knife and fork are sixties-style newly-weds, the knife being the man. He’s tall and slim and she’s slim too with a beehive hairstyle. The dessert spoon is a plump family friend and the teaspoon is her child.”

“The knife feels like a sort of slightly nerdy guy, who would be in his late 30's. The fork is his girlfriend/wife. She is more like a person who is outgoing, and takes care of people. The big spoon is a guy who feels like a teddy bear sort of person.”

“The fork is absolutely a girl and the spoon and butter knives are boys, butter knife being older. I just now realized they've always been like that.”

“Wait, so you're telling me that not everyone knows that forks are guys, spoons are girls, and knives is the fork's adult older brother!?”

“Teaspoons are their baby sisters and spoons are like 8 years old. Forks are 10 or 11, and knives are adults.”

“The dinner fork is the husband, and his wife is the spoon. The salad fork is their son, the dessert spoon is their daughter, the dinner knife is the grandfather and serving spoon is the grandmother. The gravy ladle is great-grandma.”

"All I can say is that forks are intelligent, knives are indifferent, and spoons are so wacky and ignorant that no one really likes them that much. Also forks are the only female cutlery.
I'm an exception in that my cutlery isn't married to each other. If the fork chose a husband it would be the knife, but neither of them is interested. And I see the tablespoon & teaspoon relationship more as a master & minion thing."

“I can't understand anyone thinking the fork is female. LOL He is married to the spoon, the salad fork is their son, the teaspoon is their daughter, and the knife is the spoon's father. I figured everyone just knew that, until one day when my daughter chose the "little sister" fork from the drawer.”

Go to the page on object personification

Go to the page on ordinal linguistic personification and personification in general

This page last updated: 06 February 2023
This page is about cutlery or silverware personification

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