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They're Called Hoverboards, Get Over It

Illustration for article titled Theyre Called Hoverboards, Get Over It

Have you seen those two-wheeled, self-balancing scooter things that all the kids are crazy about? They’re called hoverboards. Get over it.

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Many people take issue 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. 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, recognize 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 favors 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.

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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 instill 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. Blahhhhhg. 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 civilization 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.

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They’re called hoverboards. Get over it.

Illustration by Tara Jacoby

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DISCUSSION

brentrose
Brent Rose

Hi Matt,

You just went ahead at wrote the platonic opposite of the article I suggested we write this morning, so please, allow me to retort.

People who buy hoverboards have decided that the generic term is “hoverboard.”

So, you’re agreeing to kneel to the lowest common denominator. And by “lowest common denominator” I mean “people who buy hoverboards.” Seems a bit like the tail wagging the dog, no?

I know this is Paleofuture, but just because you’re a caveman doesn’t mean you’ve gotta cave, man.

Further, I disagree. I don’t think it’s consumers who have decided that they’re called hoverboards, I think it’s marketers. Why? Because grownups probably wouldn’t buy something called a “wheelieboard.” By agreeing to call them hoverboards we are complicit in this marketing scheme, which is to sell an overpriced, dangerous, and very stupid product to people who don’t know any better. Every time we repeat that unearned phrase, we help them, and they’re the bad guys.

So, no, I won’t get over it. I will continue to refuse to write “hoverboard” in an article unless it’s in sarcastic quotes, and I will continue to use other names for them that better convey their very real lameness.

I grew up dreaming of hoverboards, too. I placed them on a very high pedestal, as I think all of us did, and that status, that regard, that worship is to be earned. I think it sucks that companies who are genuinely investing in the R&D in an effort to make real hoverboards (Hendo, Lexus, ArcaBoard) get lost in the shuffle of headlines with these brokeass Segways, and I believe that if we aren’t a part of the solution then we’re part of the problem. So even if it’s just a drop in internet-sized bucket, I won’t do it. And I think you underestimate the power that the media could have if we all agreed to take a stand. Vive la resistance!

We’re better than this.

Sidenote:

Like Skype/Facetime/videophones, for example. What’s the generic term? I don’t know.

Yes, you do. It’s called videochat. And if it’s taking the place of a conference call, it’s a videoconference. You know this.

And now I will continue yelling at my cloud.

-Brent