iPhone Math

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The rumors are flying that Apple will introduce a new device called the "iPhone Math" in June of this year.  Since that is a highly improbable name for an iPhone (is this going to be some kind of fancy calculator?), skeptical minds have been trying to find the source of the rumors.  The earliest known occurrences of the expression "iPhone Math" are to be found in Taiwanese media, so one suspects that there was some sort of distortion of a hypothetical "iPhone Plus / iPhone +" (semantic garbling) or a hypothetical iPhone Max (phonetic garbling).  After jumbled translation or transcription from English to Chinese, then back again into English, either of those names might conceivably have come out as "iPhone Math", which would indeed be a weird name for an iPhone.

The Taiwan reports made their way onto the English language internet through outlets such as BrightWire and Daring Fireball.

Wondering what the Chinese might have been before it was translated into English, I tracked down the original report in Zhōngshíbào 中时报, the online version of Zhōngguó shíbào 中国时报 (China Times).  That wasn't any help, however, since the China Times article simply refers to the device as "iPhone Math", with no attempt to translate the supposed English name into Chinese.  If any garbling occurred, it may have taken place through oral transmission.
Some English language media harbor suspicions similar to mine:

The last article states:  "Apple already has an iPad Mini, so an iPhone Max doesn't sound too out there."  That may well be true, but I doubt that Apple will reveal the real name of this new iPhone until closer to the release date.  I'd be astonished if it is called "iPhone Math".  If, on the other hand, it turns out to be "iPhone Max", the new gadget certainly won't look like either of the devices in this YouTube video.

[A hat tip to Ben Zimmer and thanks to Gianni Wan]

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15 Comments »

  1. Agustin said,

    January 21, 2013 @ 7:00 pm

    After they release the iPhone Max, maybe they'll move on to the iPad Max, which will hopefully be garbled into "maxi pads".

  2. iVctor Mathir said,

    January 21, 2013 @ 7:14 pm

    Maybe they were going to release "a number of iPhones" and 数 became Math?

  3. David Morris said,

    January 21, 2013 @ 8:34 pm

    It's an iPad for drug users: iPad Meth.

  4. Chad Nilep said,

    January 21, 2013 @ 10:41 pm

    I wonder if this may have come from one of those in-house code names for new products, such as "blackbird" for Apple Macintosh or "Chicago" and "Detroit" for various version of Microsoft Windows?

  5. Plane said,

    January 21, 2013 @ 11:14 pm

    How about Apple introducing iPhone Macs?

  6. SlideSF said,

    January 22, 2013 @ 12:57 am

    Is iPhone Math any stranger a name than IdeaPad Yoga?

  7. peterv said,

    January 22, 2013 @ 3:52 am

    Chad Nilep reminds me of a long-standing observation about Microsoft product names – almost invariably Microsoft uses common American-English words for their products and products-in-preparation (such as "windows", "longhorn", "chicago", etc). Rarely, if ever, does Microsoft use invented words (as Apple often does) or non-English words. This pattern of behaviour says something about the non-global nature of the corporate culture at Microsoft.

  8. Thomas Thurman said,

    January 22, 2013 @ 5:45 am

    Fortunately, we can check peterv's observation for ourselves: Wikipedia provides a list of Microsoft codenames and a list of Apple codenames.

  9. Linda said,

    January 22, 2013 @ 8:52 am

    Or it says something about the global nature of the English language.

  10. KCIvey said,

    January 22, 2013 @ 11:43 am

    Or it says something about Microsoft's lack of concern for searchability.

  11. Danny said,

    January 22, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

    My first thought was along the lines of Chad's as well — and that the devs were Adventure Time fans. (Because who isn't?)

    I look forward to the adorable sentient BMO iPad in years to come.

  12. Ken Brown said,

    January 22, 2013 @ 5:38 pm

    Microsoft has fewer words for snow?

  13. Maureen said,

    January 22, 2013 @ 7:34 pm

    Math is the app Mathonwy.

  14. Blake Stacey said,

    January 24, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

    I'm glad I'm not the only reader whose first thought was of Adventure Time.

    But, in this imperfect world, the more prosaic conclusion is not that the device will be al-ge-bray-ic!, but that the translation got globbed up.

  15. nqa2 said,

    June 22, 2014 @ 11:43 am

    How may I contact Joe Luddite?

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