Have you seen those two-wheeled, self-balancing scooter things that all the kids are crazy about? They’re called hoverboards. Get over it.
Many people have taken issue, us included, with the name “hoverboard”. But here in 2016, we find ourselves futilely debating over the inevitable. This is a fight that has already been decided. The fix is in. The hovertrain has left the hoverstation. People who buy hoverboards have decided that the generic term is “hoverboard”. Not swagway, or powerboard, or whatever clever name you came up with. They’re called hoverboards. Time to for us all to get over it.
Remember about 10 years ago when some people were fighting over the word “podcast”? Tech reporter Leo Laporte led a concerted effort to call them netcasts. Have you listened to any good netcasts recently? I thought not. We find ourselves in the same position with “hoverboards”. If you call them anything else, recognise that you’re going to be on the losing side of history. Your descendants will laugh at your feeble attempts to steer the international lexicon in a way that favours your worldview. Or perhaps more likely, they’ll forget you or I even existed as the march of time moves but in one direction and a century hence few people will even know we graced this Earth with our impotent bickering and tedious creation of ones and zeroes — each wasted digital breath scattered briefly through the ether. They’re called hoverboards. Get over it.
Look, I used to be right there with you. I hated the fact that the term hoverboard was being co-opted for something that didn’t hover. I’ve been consistently writing about my desire to see a real hoverboard come to market for almost a decade now. It was my childhood dream. And they might some day become a reality. But here in 2016, the term hoverboard officially means something else now. Hoverboards don’t hover. And that sucks. We can twist and turn all night — hoping, dreaming, longing for a day when science yet again becomes magic. We can imagine some whimsical floating product built to instil wonder and allow us, if only for a short while, to forget every moment we wasted on this dying planet that continues to pulsate for untold millions with unimaginable pain and unspeakable horrors. But they’re called hoverboards. Get over it.
I even remember people fighting over the term “blog” in the early 2000s. People thought that blog was such an incredibly dumb and undignified name. They weren’t wrong. The word rolls off your tongue like you’ve got a mouthful of clam chowder that’s been sitting in the desert sun for a few weeks. Yes, we all know that these hoverboards don’t hover. But that doesn’t matter. The word blog comes from the term “web-log” but blogs aren’t always written or read on the web anymore. But you moved on. The sun still rose and the stars still shined and we all went about our miserable little lives as insignificant specks temporarily riding Spaceship Earth in a vast sea of undiscovered space that was wholly indifferent to our very existence. They’re called hoverboards. Get over it.
Blog is an annoying word, but since “reverse chronological online publishing” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, the term stuck. That’s simply how language works. Over time, people just accept whatever the majority might decide is the right term for a given technological product. Frankly, there are still plenty of technologies that I struggle to find generic words for. Like Skype/Facetime/videophones, for example. What’s the generic term? I don’t know. But I do know what the generic term for those hoverboard things that are getting banned left and right, and yet don’t hover. When the last building of the last civilisation finally falls in on itself, crumbling into a heap of ash and dust, only then will we forget the name. They’re called hoverboards. Get over it.
Feel free to fight the good fight as long as you like. Mash your keyboard with forty-thousand word missives on the definition of the word hover. Type ferociously and let your fingers become as calloused as what’s left of your soul. Then type longer still, until your digits bleed; the blood slowly drying on the keys and turning into a crimson shrine of your devotion to the right and proper word for a technological device that does not in any way hover.
They’re called hoverboards. Get over it.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby