July 17, 2009

The Foot that Plays Music

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

The name is all over the place. It’s almost joined Escalator and Keenex as a brand name turned into an English-language word. I’m talking of the iPod. But what exactly does “iPod” mean?

The iPod is Apple’s portable music player. Before it dominated the market back in the earlier part of this decade, portable music players were known as MP3 players.

The early MP3 players were either large and clumsy or too tiny to be useful. Getting the music over to the player was an ordeal. Apple changed that with the iPod, which had a good interface and linked well with the iTunes software.

Still, what does iPod mean?

The i probably means Internet. I’m just guessing.

The Pod comes from the Greek word podi or πόδι, which means foot. It’s from that root that we get the words podiatrist and podium.

Pod can also be a place where seeds are stored, such as the famous peas that come in a pod. Hey! The pPod.

In Russian, pod or под means “under.” When I was a kid I used to call my sister podmishka, which is the Russian word for “armpit.”

Yeah, I was a stinker.

Turns out, that pod was thunk up by a writer. Go figure.

Apple hired a writer named Vinnie Chieco back in 2001 to think of names for the new portable music playing gizmo. Chieco was inspired by the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Apple’s MP3 player reminded him of the escape pods from that movie. Remember the phrase, “Open the pod bay doors, Hal”? So Chieco suggested the name iPod.

As these things happen, the term iPod was already trademarked. The person who owned the term iPod envisioned it being used to describe some type of Internet kiosk. So Apple’s lawyers got busy and the guy got bruised and beaten and eventually Apple owned the term iPod.

I’m just kidding. I’m certain that the fellow who originally owned the term iPod was well-paid. Or he was at least given a free iPod.

The weird thing about the name iPod remains that it’s oddly out of sync with the rest of Apple’s iThings. For example, the iMac is a Macintosh computer. The iPhone is a phone. The iWorks, iLife, and iMovie programs are all aptly-named. iTunes is the music software. Given all that, I suppose a good alternative to the name iPod could have been iPlay. That would be my suggestion. Then we could reserve the iPod for Apple’s eventual line of high tech footware.

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