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Did you wait for hours to be one of the first to own the iPhone 4? If you think people who stand in line for new devices are silly, fill in the blank: “I can’t live without my ——————” You may not be a super early adopter, but your gadget/gizmo/doohickey/thingamajig/mobile device of choice is probably more essential to your day-to-day existence than you care to admit.

That little machine that feeds you emails, videos, Facebook updates and even some useful information now and then has a name. The author Philip K. Dick once said, “If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.” Names, and words in general, have a meaningful history that influences their use, whether you know it or not. Let’s briefly look at the story of some of these ubiquitous names.

First off, a nugget about how the iPod got its name. According to Wired magazine and multiple sources, Vinnie Chieco, a copywriter, was shown the prototype iPod and immediately thought of the film “2001,” with its white shuttle pods and, of course, the rectangular monoliths.

The origin of pod is uncertain. Though the word has many meanings, the sense of “a cover for seeded plants” derives from podware, “seed of legumes, seed grain,” related to codware, “husked or seeded plants.”  It’s funny how quickly the iPad has outgrown any sense of seed or supplement to a greater whole, now existing as a nearly stand-alone device.

The “i” in various Apple products originated with an advertising veteran named Ken Segall, who also created Apple’s “Think Different” campaign. According to an interview on the blog Cult of Mac, Segall intended the “i” to suggest not just “Internet” but a host of other i-words: “It also meant individual, imaginative and all the other things it came to stand for.”

A pad is originally “a bundle of straw to lie on” and starts to refer to “something you can write on” around 1865. The connection between the two may be the additional sense of “an ink-soaked cushion used to ink a rubber stamp,” but that’s just speculation.

Droid provides a glimpse into just how old technological language really is. Droid is George Lucas’ shortening of android in the “Star Wars” films. But android (andro- is Greek for “human”. -eides is “form of.”) dates back to 1727 and proto-science fiction novels.

A nook, “a small corner, alcove, or recess, especially one in a large room,” has an uncertain origin. A possible etymological connection to the Norwegian nokke, “hook, bent figure,” may be a painful irony for all those folks stooped over their e-readers.

Kindle shares a number of qualities with nook: its etymology is uncertain, and some of its definitions are a little odd in the context of a quiet little reading machine. To kindle is “light a fire,” or “to become aroused or inflamed.” May your digital device never, ever cause you to become inflamed.

83 Comments

  1. vanboy -  March 28, 2014 - 5:02 pm

    Any strategy what the status is today? Did they stop up with all the railway yard (which I do think could be the best solution) or did they come across another solution?

    Reply
  2. Hillrod -  March 22, 2014 - 6:06 pm

    baby gurl, since you are the dictionary app, go ahead and look up some words so you do not sound like you have no education. It is phone, not fone, and its for, not fer. Look it up honey. I have a Droid and I love it, I also have an Ipod and love it. It’s what works for you. The ipod is more for my son to play games, the Droid of course is for me. It is very usefull when needing to research something quickly and mostly to make calls. Not a big txter, but do from time to time. Even if something new comes out, the phone you have is still capable of doing what the new version can do. I enjoyed the article, you can learn something new everyday!!

    Reply
  3. Kaeldra -  March 18, 2014 - 1:02 pm

    I would never own an i-anything. I hate the way apple operates. Then again when the article said fill in the blank “I can’t live without my _____” I didn’t immediately think of electronics either. Yes I enjoy my phone and my computer, but the only possible reason I “couldn’t live without them” would be because I tend to mostly use them to learn new things, especially things for if a day comes when we don’t have all these modern conveniences. Even then there are always books but I can learn a lot more at a faster rate online than checking books out from the library and such (although I do that as well). When I was a teenager we moved to the country and were too poor to have electricity for awhile, only running water. I really enjoyed that time actually and it is one of my fondest memories growing up. So yes I can easily live without my electronics but they are an excellent source of information so I think I’ll keep them around while I can. ;-)

    Reply
  4. dorito -  March 15, 2014 - 12:57 pm

    Neither do i post about other peoples comments, but (plz notice the sarcasm)
    @All commenters : it isn’t the end of the world if you do not have an iphone. People have lived for centuries without most of the things we’ll claim to not live without. So stop blowing it out of proportion!

    Reply
  5. Joe Frankenstein -  March 12, 2014 - 4:00 pm

    The iMac was the first i product. It stands for internet.

    Reply
  6. JS -  March 11, 2014 - 12:49 am

    I always figured it was “interactive”. I guess that might sound a bit silly thiugh!

    Some of those were abundantly obvious like the SW thing. Kindle, too, now that the tablet follows it with “Fire”. As for “arousal”, I sure hope we are all passionate about our reading!

    Reply
  7. CDO -  March 8, 2014 - 8:59 am

    Andr is Greek for male. The Greek word for human is anthropos.

    Reply
  8. wolf tamer and coal miner -  February 12, 2014 - 3:31 am

    I agree with Baby Gurl. Anonymous, how do you know that Baby Gurl can’t afford an iPhone? Maybe she can, she just doesn’t want one.

    Anyway, interesting article; for further elaboration of my thoughts, see Demosthenes’ comment. Great minds think alike, I guess.

    Also, I agree with the other commenters on the “stuffed shirt” thing. There’s a fine line between using intelligent words because you are intelligent, and being a “stuffed shirt.”

    Reply
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