September 3, 2010
For historical reasons, the device in your pocket or purse – the one that you use to browse the Internet and send email, is called a “phone.” We need a new name for that thing.
Cellphone and Smartphone are words that recognize the historical roots of the device while making things worse. “Mobile phone” is archaic. Those are some ugly words. And all of those labels have the problem of making the phone feature seem highest in importance while it trends less so every day. Ask a teen how often he makes phone calls on his texter.
I’m biased against the voice communication function of my so-called phone because I hate that particular feature. It’s impossible to have a conversation by cellphone if any of the following conditions is true:
- An earpiece, headset, or speakerphone is used.
- One of you is in an area with bad reception.
- One of you has an iPhone.
- One of you has a heavy accent.
- One of you is insanely boring.
- One of you is near anything loud, such as traffic.
That covers just about every call I’m likely to get. I end half of my phone conversations by shouting “I…CAN’T…HEAR…YOU…SEND…ME…AN…EMAIL!!!”
“On top of that, people use the phone to ask me for uncomfortable favors or deliver bad news, whereas they use email to give me information I want or need. When my so-called phone rings, my first reaction is "Shit. What’s wrong now?” When I get an email or text message, I feel a tingle of optimism.
Text and email are polite invitations to a conversation. They happen at the speed and leisure of both the sender and the receiver. In stark contrast, when you get a phone call, it’s almost always a convenient time for the caller and a bad time for the recipient, who I refer to as the “victim” because I insist on accuracy. My philosophy is that every phone conversation has a loser.
Anyway, back to my point: We need a new name for your cellular phone. The new name should embrace all of your device’s functions while favoring none. It should understand the future of the device and release on its history. The name should not be long or klunky or geeky, so forget about calling it a communicator.
My suggestion, which I offer simply to prime the pump, is to call the phone your “head.” This term recognizes that you are essentially a cyborg with a detachable brain. You offload a lot of your memory into your device, and it helps you communicate and gather information, just like the other parts of your general skull area.
There isn’t much chance of name confusion with the organic part of your head because the context will always be clear. If you say, “I can’t find my head,” or “Whose head is ringing?” each utterance has only one rational interpretation. Granted, there could be some confusion if a head is contemplated as a gift item, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.
There’s a saying in this country: “You’d lose your head if it weren’t screwed on.” And now it isn’t. Your head is partly on your shoulders and partly in your pocket or purse. And we often misplace it precisely because it isn’t screwed on. I think the word “head” is perfect.
Try to top it. What is your suggestion for a new name?