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This place matters

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Domo arigato

Watching some old Twilight Zone episodes, I noticed people pronouncing robot so that it sounded more like robit. How odd, I thought. Obviously, the emphasis should be on the bot part, because bot is so... robot-ey. Robot is such a science-y word, it seems like it should be pronounced in, like, a technology-ish way. Right? The reason it seems a scienc-y word to me, I guess, that it's been around, been a technology-ish term, since I was born.
I'd never thought before then where the term came from, although I think I'd assumed it was an acronym for something long ago forgotten, like so many tech terms are. Nope. Robot comes from the the Czech word robotnik, which means slave. How weird is that? Calling a machine a slave is distinctly un-technology-ish. And no company would certainly purport to build and sell slaves nowadays. Not so PR friendly. 
Just think, though. That iDog you bought your kid for Christmas and have been regretting purchasing it ever since? That thing's your kid's slave. Roomba? Your slave. And Hal the evil robot from 2001, A Space Odysey? Nothing more evil than a futuristic Spartacus. Think of that next time you kick your kid's Roboraptor under the couch.
I wonder if robot sounds so science-y because it sounds sonicky, to use Blount's word again? Or do you suppose that if robots had first been called fauna, fauna would now sound science-y?

2 comments:

Cap'n Ergo "XL+1" Jinglebollocks said...

On such grounds, I hereby refuse to refer to my CPAP machine as a "robot." There. I'm all set.

Although the semi-suffix "-nik" might prove to be interesting fodder for your next blogcake...

Brigid Daull Brockway said...

Was disappointed to learn that beatnik is not related.

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