What’s In a Name: Hoverboard That Does Not Hover

There are always people who are grumbling with the way we call hoverboards, well, hoverboards. The idea, according to this group, is that the contraption does not hover at all so why in the world would we call it as such?

On Levitation

Certainly, the above argument makes a lot of sense. The hoverboard that we know of today is actually a scooter or a skateboard with wheels. It has no capacity to levitate above ground as opposed to real hoverboards conceptualized in the film Back to the Future and implemented by prolific inventors such as Catalin Alexandru Duru. This last has invented a successful personal levitator, which posted a Guinness world record by travelling more than 275 meters over a lake.

In contrast, current hoverboards populating store shelves today have wheels. Despite the fact that a number of these products boast of smart-balancing technology, it is still stuck to the ground and trudges on the strength of either plastic or rubber tires. Language purists have been raising their pitchforks on this account.


So here’s the thing: nobody really knows where the name hoverboard for the smart, self-balancing scooter originated. There are those who say that the label is an offshoot of branding getting lost in translation because the bulk of hoverboards – like your iOS devices – are manufactured in China. Somewhere along the way – as these products found their way to the U.S. market – the name hoverboard emerged and they stuck.

Another school of thought is that hoverboards emerged as the name for this type of electric scooter for the simple fact that it was what the public has accepted. It became popular and that is all there is to it. This particular explanation is legitimate to me largely because the English language is quite flexible and it is open to new words or corrupted words as long as the world has welcomed it to its fold. It is for this reason why I feel a bit incensed when a critic raises a mighty ruckus if I mention hoverboard to his face. The operating principle here is the same with the way the world has accepted the word peanut when in fact it is a legume and not a nut at all.


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