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Retranslating the “i” in “iPod”

November 27, 2011

In a rather nasty little sermon in front of the British Queen, Jonathan Sacks, a major rabbi in the UK, has mocked Steve Jobs:

The Chief Rabbi [Jonathan Sacks]’s comments are likely to raise eyebrows because he singled out for blame Jobs – the co-founder of Apple who died last month – by likening his iPad tablet computers to the tablets of stone bearing the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses. Speaking at an interfaith reception attended by the Queen this week, Lord Sacks said:

“People are looking for values other than the values of a consumer society. The values of a consumer society really aren’t ones you can live by for terribly long. The consumer society was laid down by the late Steve Jobs coming down the mountain with two tablets, iPad one and iPad two, and the result is that we now have a culture of iPod, iPhone, iTune, i, i, i.  When you’re an individualist, egocentric culture and you only care about ‘i’, you don’t do terribly well.”


Now it seems to me that one can reply to Sacks in five ways:

  • (a) on the basis of grammar [I will leave this criticism as an exercise for the reader];
  • (b) on the basis of Jewish law;
  • (c) on the basis of content,
  • (d) on basis of the meaning of “i” in “iPod,” “iPhone” etc., and
  • (e) on the basis of his hypocrisy.

For responses (b) [Jewish law] and (c) [content], Tzvee has already written a criticism:

Oy, oy, oy. The rabbi maybe should have retired last year, not next year. He’s got it wrong, oy, oy, oy….

There is nothing at all about Apple products that is any more selfish or materialist than any other consumer market product. iPad has Torah apps! What is the man talking about?…

You are not permitted to mock the dead. They cannot answer. The rabbis remind us that one who mocks the dead is like one who insults his creator. It’s based on a verse in the bible about the poor and weak, only it is applied to the dead. Proverbs 17:5 is the verse that is invoked in this regard, לועג לרש חרף עושהו “One who mocks the poor affronts his Maker.” The rabbi ought politely to have raised issues about Jobs’ actions as a person during his life…. For the rabbi to attack the iPad and insinuate that it is a source of the world’s unhappiness — that is silly talk.


For (d) [meaning of “i” in “iPod”], it is enough to remember that the iPod was named after the iMac

The iPod name was offered up by Vinnie Chieco, a freelance copywriter who lives in San Francisco. Chieco was recruited by Apple to be part of a small team tasked with helping figure out how to introduce the new player to the general public, not just computer geeks. During the process, Jobs had settled on the player’s descriptive tag line – “1,000 songs in your pocket” – so the name was freed up from having to be descriptive. It didn’t have to reference music or songs. While describing the player, Jobs constantly referred to Apple’s digital hub strategy: The Mac is a hub, or central connection point, for a host of gadgets. This prompted Chieco to start thinking about hubs: objects that other things connect to.

The ultimate hub, Chieco figured, would be a spaceship. You could leave the spaceship in a smaller vessel, a pod, but you’d have to return to the mother ship to refuel and get food. Then Chieco was shown a prototype iPod, with its stark white plastic front. “As soon as I saw the white iPod, I thought 2001,” said Chieco. “Open the pod bay door, Hal!” Then it was just a matter of adding the “i” prefix, as in “iMac.”

Chieco declined to mention any of the alternative names that were considered. A source at Apple confirmed Chieco’s story.

And what does the “i” in “iMac” stand for?  It stands for Internet – it does not stand for the personal pronoun.

For (e) [hypocrisy] it is sufficient to note that Jonathan Sacks issued a statement admitting that he “uses an iPhone and an iPad on a daily basis,” [although, one hopes, not on the Jewish sabbath.]

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2011 5:42 pm

    Well, if we were speaking Hebrew:

    iPad (בעברית: אייפד)

  2. November 27, 2011 6:35 pm

    Another theory says that the whole idea came from a cheap Star Trek props budget: link. I haven’t really watched Star Trek, so no opinion on this theory.

  3. November 28, 2011 9:40 am

    An i for an i?

    Methinks one i doth protest too much, for this is all getting a bit too iCloudy.

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