I’m (obviously) not the kind of guy who’d vote for Newt Gringrich for anything under any circumstances. But I have to admit that the former House Speaker’s long-time interest in and advocacy of information technology and space travel is something I respect.
So I was, as my Irish friends say, gobsmacked by an extraordinary video on the Web site of Gingrich productions, in which the failed presidential candidate says “we’re really puzzled” about what to call Internet-connected phones.
When I first heard about this, I was sure the video was a joke, a fabrication by some clever Newt hater, or maybe a self-deprecating joke by Newt himself, although he’s not known for a sense of irony. But no. It’s the real deal. It’s on Gingrich’s Web site, and he’s even tweeted about it.
Earth to Newt: The word you’re looking for is, “smartphone,” and it’s been in use for years. That’s news to almost no one, of course, but Newt has to give it some thought:
“You probably think it’s a cell phone,” said Gingrich. “But think about it, if it’s taking pictures, it’s not a cell phone…This device, is something new and different. I’ve been calling it a handheld computer.”
And then he says: “So having failed for several days to come up with an adequate term for the device we call a ‘cell phone,’ we want to open the discussion up to you. Let us know in the comments what you think we should name it, and we’ll feature the best ones in a future newsletter.”
Hmm. How about “horseless telephone,” as someone suggested on YouTube. Or maybe, as one rather mean-spirited poster said, “Call it the Callista phone. They? are both made out of plastic and you can upgrade to a newer model if you get bored with the current one.”
Gingrich himself now seems a bit embarrassed by his clueless video; he tweeted “Smartphone is a dumb word: We need a new name.”
Well, it could be worse. If things had gone differently, President Gingrich might be wondering what to call that big white building he lives in.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.