iPad problems

On the front page of today’s NYT: “What’s in a Name? For Apple, iPad Said More Than Intended” by Brad Stone), about a series of problems with the name iPad.

Item 1: “Many women are saying the name evokes awkward associations with feminine hygiene products.”

Item 2: “People from Boston to Ireland are complaining that “iPad,” in their regional brogue, sounds almost indistinguishable from “iPod,” Apple’s music player. The problem may be worse outside the United States: Japanese does not even have a sound for the “a” in iPad.”

Item 3: “Two other high-tech companies already market products called iPad and are laying claim to the trademark.”

On 1: the association of pad with feminine hygiene seems to be strong. One result of this has been that “iTampon” swiftly became a popular trending topic on Twitter.

It turns out that Mad TV did a comedy sketch in 2005 about a then-fictional Apple device called the iPad (“Why use a maxi pad when there’s the new iPad from Apple?”). NPR’s Morning Edition did an interview on January 28 with two of the show’s writers: transcript here, audio here. YouTube video of the sketch here.

On 2: a number of English dialects realize the phoneme /a/ (as in pod) with a somewhat fronted vowel that is close to the realization of the phoneme /æ/ (as in pad) in those dialects. And many languages don’t have a phonemic distinction between /a/ and /æ/, realizing the second in English words as the first.

On 3: Apple has been through trademark disputes before, notably over iPhone. Steve Jobs has a record of bulldozing the competition.

4 Responses to “iPad problems”

  1. Nik Says:

    The Japanese angle is perplexing: Japanese パ (pa) as I hear it in Tokyo is reasonably close to the ‘pa’ as I say it in iPad, and most importantly it is very easily distinguished from the ポ (po) as in iPod. I guess it’s just another case of ‘foreign-language-x doesn’t have a word/sound for Y’.

  2. xyzzyva Says:

    Regarding #2, isn’t the problem here that most of us Americans have merged /ɒ/ into /ɑː/? Thus while iPod “should” be [ˈaɪˌpɒd], it’s instead [ˈaɪˌpɑd] in GA; with iPad as [ˈaɪˌpæd].

    Meanwhile, don’t the accents that front /ɑ/ to near [æ] all maintain the rounding of /ɒ/?

    Or— have non-GA accents borrowed GA’s /ˈaɪˌpɑːd/ pronunciation, with the unrounded and for-them-mergeable second vowel?

  3. David W Says:

    I don’t believe that any native accents of English merge “pod” and “pad”, except for some in the Caribbean. And any speakers that do have this merger would have a whole host of other potential confusions such as “pat” = “pot”, “tap” = “top”, “rat” = “rot”, etc.

    A far more likely source of confusion would be when a speaker with the Northern Cities Vowel Shift talks to a listener from a different region. When the speaker says “iPod”, the listener would likely interpret it as “iPad” — particularly if spoken in isolation.

  4. Annals of spam « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] of spam By arnoldzwicky A spam comment on my iPad posting, from a clearly commercial site: I was studying something else about this on another blog. […]

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