Since the iMac, the letter 'I' in gadget names has come a long way. Mostly down.
Blame the popularity of every third-rate company pushing products with the "I" prefix. I'm so sick of it, I often have trouble using the letter to refer to myself. (To shake things up, l sometimes use a cleverly hidden lower-case "L."). And maybe I'm not the only one. iPhone aside, what does it mean that Apple's iTV was officially launched under the title Apple TV?
I'm not the kind of person to complain without offering a solution, however—in fact, I have 25 other characters that could be the next big-name prefix in the gadget industry. Let's start first with everyone's favorite group of letters—the vowels.
Without them, our words would be much less human and much more German—so we'll go through them first.
A—A great start. Associated with excellence, "a" also has the ability to sound nonchalant. Like, "aPhone" or "aMac." Its only downfall? For the grammar nazi in all of us, there can never be an, "aApple" or an, "aAardvark"—and when you start throwing n's into the equation, the whole thing loses purpose.
E—Almost as overused as the "i" the "e" usually stands for electronic but to me it stands for boring, so, it's out of the running.
O—"O" is an interesting choice. Shakespearean in nature, it immediately makes your gadget sound as if you're lamenting it. "oPhone!" or, "oMouse!" can never be written without an exclamation point. Then there's the Japanese prefix to things of greatness. (Otoro as fatty tuna; Ocha as green tea.) Then we start getting into the moral issues. Should we lament inanimate objects? Will some religious groups turn away from the "o" products? Consider that "o" also sort of stands for orgasm and you start dividing people. Oh, o, what will you get us into next?
U—There's no "u" in team, and that might be its problem. "U" is very individualistic—it might work for things that imply you as part of the creation process—YouTube, for example—but what about the products you shouldn't be touching? I can't imagine the loss of life when products like the "uElectricFence" hit the market.
Y—"Y" seems indecisive. First of all, its only a vowel sometimes—come on, make up your mind. Second of all, it's a question—Y? And it seems to call into question anything you put after it, "yMonitor?" "yKeyboard?" In fact, not only will it make people doubt the gadgets ("That's a good question! Why keyboard?") but even our existence as a whole. After all, nothing quite hits the existential funny bone as a quietly spoken "Y?"
The big boys, the consonants are the ribs that protect our soft creamy vowel sacks. If someone is messing with "u" you have no doubt that "g" is going to step in and have a few words. Consonants aren't usually pretty, they've got grit and toughness—and you can always trust a consonant to protect you.
B—Another letter that borders between existentialism and Shakespearean. It almost orders you to be the item you're buying— a "bKeyboard" will just confuse us, as consumers. How can we be a keyboard? How is that possible? What is the company saying? Has it developed a piece of technology that will turn us into keyboards? Where could I get one? See? The whole thing doesn't work.
C—"C" is a good one. First of all, it's ripe with comedy, as there will be people who will wittily exclaim, "I cPhone"— and everyone will laugh so very hard. Secondly, you know those small personalized characters you make in the Wii called Mii's? What if a piece of technology allowed you to carry them around with you as some sort of Wii ID? Now, in a world where "c" began our gadgets—that would be called the "cMii." ...Are you sold yet?
D, F— I'm going to have to strike these two from the competition as they're far too reminiscent of my high school years for me to feel comfortable with them straddling my gadgets.
G— A strong letter—G is the kind of letter you can expect to protect you in a back alley. It won't let any of the other letters push it around but it does have some negative connotations. A "gPhone" sounds like it should either have a gun (or a "gat") somewhere inside of it, or like you're a 1950's pre-pubescent cartoon character (as in— "Gee, phone!") I can see this letter succeeding in the rap world—not so much anywhere else.
H— H is sort of unlikable. You never really know what to do with it, it's not pretty when pronounced and when you say it out loud it just sounds like a half-sneeze ("Aych!")—it definitely doesn't have C's vavoom.
J, K— These two letters have unwittingly been dragged into the Internet world with the use of the terrible, "jk!!!" That said, "j" will always make people think of "joke" while "k" will always make people think of "kidding" and racism. Neither one will ever have a career starting gadget names.
L— Well, it just kind of sounds like lesbian, doesn't it?
M— M rings of dissatisfaction. An "mMac" just kind of sounds lackluster—as if you have to think about it before you say it. It's weak — and the weak don't survive in this letter-eat-letter world.
N— The younger brother of M, it's not only weaker than M, it seems like the poor man's version of it. So, why use N where M has failed?
P— I'm going to take a wild guess and say that when gadgets go to Hell, the letter "p" is attached to them so that they are never purchased again. Sure some people might like P, some might even like to put P on people they care about—but when it's this easy to make a potty joke with a letter, it's not getting anywhere.
Q— Everything strange starts with Q. It truly is a letter belonging to the worlds of Edgar Allen Poe—I can see Q leading me to alternate universes, I can see Q teaching me magic, or sending me to space—I can also, unfortunately, see Q murdering me brutally in my sleep. Also, cheapening James Bond's Q by attaching the name to mundane gadgets does you and the franchise no favors. Or favours, as Q would say.
R— The benefit is it sounds a little like "our"—the problem is if your gadget starts with a vowel, R will just destroy it. So, if you've got an apple that changes color, the R will take that apple, and make it a rApple—and that's just not worth it.
S— The S is too sibilant. When you say your gadgets, you'll just end up sounding like a gay man or someone from Portugal.
T— I live in San Francisco—the "t" has a completely different connotation here than it may in normal cities. Here it mostly means transsexual.
V— The V has already been experimented with—in fact, since video is becoming the Internet's hot new thing, expect to see the V straddling a lot more gadgets.
W— There's so much wrong with the W that it makes me sick. First of all—the lying. It's called a double-u, but it obviously looks like a double-V—so, which is it? Secondly, it's one of the most unimaginative letters in the alphabet. That's like X calling itself a double-crooked-L or S calling itself a drunk J—it's boring, it's arrogant, and it's just antisocial behavior on W's part.
X— Too sexy.
Z— Too reminiscent of sleep—you don't want a "zPhone"—that just sounds like a roofie with a dial pad.
And the winners are...
It's a toss-up between U and C—both interesting letters, both also happen to be words and both have that Internet-y sound that consumers love so much.
So, friends, Romans, countrymen, throw me your i's so that we may start a new life. A life ripe with U's and C's and symbols you've never seen before—lay down the old, pick up the new, and start a uRevolution with me.
And if you were wondering...
Leander over at Cult of Mac reminds us that the 'i' in iPod stands for Internet. Before their music player, the iMac's emphasis on net connectivity set the meaning. And the name iPod,
while inspired by the white EVA pods in 2001: A Space Odyssey, was actually a trademark Apple meant to use for internet kiosks.
- Yuri Baranovsky
Yuri Baranovsky writes about gadgets, and the Internet sitcom that he cowrote and cocreated at www.breakaleg.tv
[Image: soup by Marshall Fels Elliott]