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.