Tuesday, 26 January 2010

iPhone Compatible, By the Way

I'm down with the kids, I know what's happening, and I can most certainly keep it real. I stay on the raw edge of things, typing in my comfy chair listening to my folk rock. Yeah. Ok, maybe not, but what I can do is things with words. So, I'm going to keep myself updated as to the oddities we get around us today, and that starts here.

The thing I want to look at today is a prefix. For those of you who don't know, that's a thing that can go at the beginning of a word to change its meaning, like UNhappy or DEcompression. I need you to understand the jargon before I blow it out of the water. Y'see, the prefix one that applies specifically to concrete nouns (that's actual things you can touch), as opposed to abstract nouns and verbs. As a result, I'm in two minds as to whether it's really a proper prefix. Even the Oxford English Dictionary has yet to comment. No matter, we shall be the first! Together! So, our topic is this:


Ok, so you can go to the OED and look up some versions of "i-" that are already in there. Those aren't the ones I'm talking about, though. No, mine refer to words like iPod and iplayer. That "i-" has yet to get its own definition, though I've no doubt it's work in progress (they're like linguistic ninjas, I swear).

The root of this prefix (let's just call it that) can probably be traced to the iPod, the iMac, the iPhone, that sort of thing. Apple products. If it were confined to a marketing brand, we could leave it at that. Once upon a time, that's all it was, and of little importance. Nowadays, if we take a closer look, we can see it's getting bigger.

Kids, go talk to your grandparents. Ask them what life was like in the early days of the internet. They'll go on about things you won't have heard about, like "dial-up" and "Internet Explorer". Ignore those bits, and see if you can draw any jargon from the depths of their knowledge. Chances are, the nitty-gritty bits will have the prefix "e-". You still use it for email, if you still use that slow stuff, as opposed to Twitter (oh yeah, check the lingo!). It stands for electronic, electronic mail, and was pretty common. But where's it gone?

Nowadays, in what we here call Web.2.0, we've got the "iplayer" and similar complicated programs, not just HTML. Shouldn't that be "eplayer"? What's happened? Well, when it comes to technical wizardry, especially in the realms of film and music, who do we turn to for our portable devices? Cassettes? Hah!

Here's where I stand on the matter: Apple have a monopoly. It's like those years before big consoles, where we only had Nintendo. Then Sony crept in, and the analogy breaks. My point, though, is that they have such an influence, that their products are synonymous with the market they fill. Anyone else, like the BBC, who wants to get in on the act, doesn't stand a chance unless they look as cool (!) as Apple, so they've started using the same sort of language. Easy peasy, really.

It won't last. The iPod won't always be the cool thing. Some other company will take over, and the things they say will be gospel (my current guess is with 3D companies). Then everyone will start to follow them, and it'll go on forever. Maybe that's why there's no OED entry. Maybe they reckon it's just a fad, too.

There ya go, folks, a little bit of history for our generation. These are the words we have, so enjoy them while they last. It's nice knowing where they come from, and I look forward to witnessing the next lot step up to the podium!


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