Newt Gingrich "puzzled" by smartphone

Newt Gingrich says:

To call this a "cell phone" or a "handheld computer" fails to capture the change that has taken place. It is a change in kind, not just a change in scale, and just as drivers of the earliest cars called them "horseless carriages", our language has not caught up.

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.

What should we call it???

(Via CN)



  1. For me, it’s a tossup between horseless communicator and New Electronic Wireless Telecommunicator (NEWT).

    1. Surely it would be ‘wingless carrier pigeon’? I’m loving the sound of NEWT though. We could also start using it as a verb for any smartphone-based NEWT-based action.

      NEWTed from my NEWT

    2.  What, yours doesn’t have a horse?  How primitive.  I’m waiting for the next iPhone, it’s sure to have horses.

  2. We should call it a tedious blabbermouth with nothing interesting to say.  Oh, the thing in its hand?  That’s a smartphone.

  3. Oooh, OOOH! AppATronMediaComm!

    If you look really carefully, you can see that Newt’s got a copy of Fifty Ways to Leave your LoverWife on that bookshelf.

  4. Until it no longer makes use of cellular technology, it’s still a cell phone – regardless of what else it can do.

    And who call it an “auto-mobil”, or automobile for that matter. Only Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Burns I think.

    1. It might contain a cell phone, but it’s not only a cell phone.  Any more than my laptop is a DVD player or my game console is a netflix box.  Cell phone is one of many primary uses.

      1. I only apply the same logic to “cell phone” that you do to your other examples:

        • First came the laptop – then came the  DVD playing abilities.
        • It was a game console before it was a Netflix box
         • It was a cellular telephone before it was “not only a cell phone.” 

        We refer to all of these things by their original purpose, regardless of the other features it acquires.

        Nothing else will catch as a name until the original is no longer adequate to describe the object. Smart-phone almost had it I think, but with almost everyone having one, and so few people having the old “dumb” phones (*cough*my wife*cough*) , I hear most people just calling them “cell phone”, “pone”, or “mobile”. 

        The real question is what icon do you use to represent a phone when a phone can look like anything? 

        1. And they were called lawmakers because at one time, they actually made and passed laws…

          1. yeah, I had a fun time attempting to explain to my 8 year old why that was the icon for save…

    2. Modern mobile phones don’t make use of cellular technology… Unless your smartphone is using an analog signal (in which case, I hope you have good lungs, so that you can shout sufficiently loud to be heard when you are far away from a tower!)

      1. Well, the area served by each tower is still called a ‘cell’ (even in the UK where we call them mobile phones), and the complicated part of the technology that had to be solved to create the first cell phones was the hand-off between different towers, and that still  exists, so I think calling them cellphones is acceptable.

  5. He could have easily learned that there is already a widely used term for this device if only he’d spent some time surfing that Informational Superhighway of Tubular Computing Networks first.

  6. That would just confuse him. He usually marries any secretary who gets into his pockets.

    1. And as a bonus, it will give his current wife cancer which always facilitates his divorces/new marriages!

  7. I hate to admit it, but he does kinda have a point.  I use my iPhone all the time and yet go for days without a phone call on it.  
    “Computer” has kind of the same problem when applied to non-business devices.  Unlike the commercial mainframes I used to do programming on, consumer ones do almost no computing at all.  It’s all about moving data from one place to another and displaying it.  No batch accounting applications to be seen.  
    We do need better terminology to describe these relatively new appliances.  But we don’t need Noot to approve our nomenclature for us.

    1. So, you are saying that the CPU speed in your system does not matter, since almost no computations take place on your local machine?  

      Personally, most “business use” computers are more likely to be thin client style “cloud computing”, aka document processing, etc, while most non-business gamers are wanting their computer to do more and faster computing then ever.

      I think that the name “computer” works just fine for personal computers. 

      As for the cell phones, you have either “Smartphones” or cell-phones.

      I want to ask Newt, if you car does more then drive (like play music, or cool the air inside), it is more then a car?

    2. “computer” used to refer to someone who made calculations, so you should really be using electronic computer if you want to be precise…

  8. Sounds like the opening moves of some plan to “frame the conversation”.  I kept waiting for “But there’s a darker side to this limitless potential, and with great power comes great responsibility.”  Check back in a year’s time to see if he’s progressed to mandatory tracking collars yet.

    1.  Of all his flaws (and he has many), pretty much everything I’ve read seems to agree Newt is actually, genuinely fascinated with technology and the future and the potential it holds. Of all the candidates to make grandiose space claims, he’s the only one who would have at least tried to make it happen, for example.

          1. I agree. You could shove quite a lot of haggis in there before throwing it all away.

          2.  That would be a waste of haggis. Well, not a waste of haggis cased in Newt Gingrich, obviously, but ordinary haggis, definitely.

      1. Indeed, he might sound very forward on technology, if one was not familiar with Bond films or Stephen Colbert.

        But when Colbert realized Gingrich’s electromagnetic talk and and his lunar colony idea was from Bond’s villains and not Bond, he flipped his analogy.
        “It’s occurred to me, all those schemes are from the villains,” he said. “Gingrich isn’t Bond, he’s Blofeld!

      2. …Don’t you think a man who is “fascinated by technology” would know what a SMARTPHONE, of all freakin’ things, is?!  I mean come on. The fact that you believe the crap you just wrote after watching this video is kind of sad. 

    1. Technically, they call a standard cell phone a “handy”. So I guess these should be an “uberhandy”

      1. True, but the name is too charming to be thrown out. And since all cell phones are probably eventually going to be what we now classify as smartphones, we might as well keep the cool name.

      2. now, where did i hear someone call it an “uber”?

        i believe i did hear that, unless… wait, what’s it called when you think you remember hearing something, but actually you totally just made it up? not cryptomnesia, that’s when you think you made it up but you actually heard it somewhere

  9. Personal digital assistant was a term widely used long in advance of Deus Ex’s release, and even longer before the year Deus Ex is set. Hardly prescient. Actually rather retrograde, if you think about it.

  10. Mobile terminal. (Or would it be mobile terminus if you’re British?) Whether you use it as a telephone, for internet access, for lightweight computing, or for a combination of the above, it’s a terminal. Whether it’s operating in a cellular mode, tethered to wifi, or even connected to a satellite, it’s mobile. Thus, mobile terminal.

    A bit of a mouthful, but “mobterm” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Of course, I also named my PC “electroni-box”, so I don’t have the best track record with these sort of things.

    1.  No, it’s still terminal. I’m beginning to think all you colonials need some goddamn Latin lessons…

  11. Personal
    Telecommunication and

  12. You realise he’s trolling you, right? Loosely translated, he said, ‘What is this, I don’t even…’
    Newt Gingrich just  used an internet meme and you didn’t even notice…

  13. Since TVs have been known as boob tubes, I think a good name would be a teat – considering how infantile some people can get when deprived of or removed from their teat.

    1. Harlan Ellison has been here already:
      One could probably get away with reapplying this put down to smart phones by writing caustic app reviews, or something, but it would have to be backed up with a significant amount of work as was done by Mr. Ellison for his project. He offered a lot of criticism, sure, but he also clearly watched a heck of a lot of television in the process of doing so.

  14. The correct term for an electrified guitar is “guitar.” The correct term for electronic mail is “mail.” And the correct term for an intelligent phone is “phone.” Add modifiers for the obsolete variants: acoustic guitar, physical mail, voice-only phone.

    1. Disagree.  Some people buy them, use them constantly and never make a phone call.  So why on earth would you call it a phone?  Voice communication occupies only a small percentage of the materials, technology and resource usage of a modern smartphone.

      1.  Tsch. Twanging bits of string nailed to a bloody plank? In the Glorious New Digital Future? What do you think?

      2. Yeah, I tried to install the latest firmware on it and the damn thing’s been crashing every eight bars.

  15. i have a feeling that eventually well just call it our HUD, and then well get so used to it being there that we wont even call it anything at all

    1. “Gah! My thing stopped working!”
      “Your what?”
      “I don’t know! Who are you? Where am I? Help!”

  16. I would comment “If you’re so interested in making government and society better and more productive, why didn’t you focus on that while you were in government, instead of focusing on excoriating Clinton for having an extramarital affair while blatantly extramaritally boinking the current Mrs. Gingrich?” 

  17. I always called it the ol’ benton harbor lunch box…
    Now, I just say “text me on the tip calculator”

    1. “Huh, we haven’t heard from loudmouth X in a long time…why now?” I guess they let him out of the cage he was put in during the 2012 election.

  18. So many bad puns came to mind that I had a brain burp and couldn’t think for a moment. So, since I am sure that there are many others who will have a ton of fun with puns on this (and which I am going to continue enjoy reading), I’m going with a serious suggestion.


    Data for its computer aspects and Comm for its communication aspects.

    Or perhaps a shortened version, DCom.

  19. Is this “Newt Gingrich” guy for real, or is this an elaborate Troll or a comedy act ( like Stephen Colbert) 

    I cannot believe that anybody is that stupid that they know what a smartphone is, but doesnt know its called a smartphone. Really?
    Even his supposed name “Newt Gingrich” sounds made up. Sounds too surreal and hillbilly’ish to be a real name.

    Because lets be perfectly honest here, who would vote for somebody named “Newt Gingrich”?

    1.  Haha!  Try Google.  He was a congressman for 20 years and was Speaker of the House for a few of those.  He recently ran for President. He is for real, and indicative of most American politicians.

    2. Is this “Newt Gingrich” guy for real, or is this an elaborate Troll or a comedy act ( like Stephen Colbert) 
      You could ask the same question about a large fraction of our politicians. But alas, he really is a elected politician with a long career behind him.

    3. It’s a calculated attempt at “folksiness”, pretending to be a regular guy so people will like him.  Once you get to know him, you realize he’s a sanctimonious weasel.  It’s not an unusual political animal.  

    4. Of course he knows it’s often called a “smartphone”, and a “cellphone”, but he’s trying to make a point.  It’s a revolutionary technology, it’s put networked video cameras in the hands of half the population (so it’s a lot harder for police to get away with things unrecorded), it’s running tools to keep people constantly updated about what their friends are up to, and to keep people who aren’t your friends constantly updated about what you’re up to, it’s got more computing power than supercomputers did when he was first harassing Bill Clinton and faster data connections than an average university did back then, it’s got music-player and music-distribution technology that helped trash the big music studios’ business model, can store a recent copy of Wikipedia and access the rest of it as needed. 

      It doesn’t yet have an intergalactic version of the Electric Thumb application, but you can definitely get an app to show “Don’t Panic” in big friendly letters on the front.

    5. I am an American, and I want to assure you that Newt Gingrich is not a real person.  He is a comedian prankster.  All the news and stuff you might see about him on the web are just jokes.  He is kind of like Rick Santorum, Steven Colbert, and Michele Bachmann, just hilarious made up American jokes.

      It is always hilarious when non-Americans read our joke news and think they are real.  Do you really think one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations with one of the longest running democracies could really descend into the kind of stupid that these pranksters pretend is real?

      Ha ha, Americans are so funny and totally don’t have a batshit insane political class hell bent on running the nation into the ground.  You can go ahead and keep on respecting the Americans.  We are totally worth respecting.

      1.  If it’s any consolation, it’s not much nicer being British. We just pretend it is.

        1. What’s the difference between collectively pretending something’s nice and something being nice?

        2. …it’s not much nicer being British. We just pretend it is.

          I had the impression that being British means that you have to hand half your paycheck to a terrorist because EUROPE!, you’re not allowed to leave your home because health and safety and you have a one in four chance of being murdered by a Polish immigrant on any given day. I haven’t observed the nicer-pretending.

      2. I am an American, and I want to assure you that Newt Gingrich is not a real person. He is a comedian prankster. All the news and stuff you might see about him on the web are just jokes. He is kind of like Rick Santorum, Steven Colbert, and Michele Bachmann, just hilarious made up American jokes.

        It is always hilarious when non-Americans read our joke news and think they are real. Do you really think one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations with one of the longest running democracies could really descend into the kind of stupid that these pranksters pretend is real?

        Ha ha, Americans are so funny and totally don’t have a batshit insane political class hell bent on running the nation into the ground. You can go ahead and keep on respecting the Americans. We are totally worth respecting.

        Quoted for awesomeness

    6.  Many, many people, sadly. Though that wouldn’t preclude his not being real, I suppose. He is though.

  20. The YA novel series Remnants used the term “link.”

    I like just the word “cell,” by itself. Like an organism’s cell. Or a prison cell if you’re a Luddite. :P

    1. I was thinking link, but then I thought hinge.

      It’ll be increasingly weird for someone to go without one, until from the point of view of everyone whose existence hinges on their phone, the deliberately phoneless will appear completely unhinged.

  21. And so, Kangaroo loudly proclaimed, “I can’t send Hare in search of anything!”
    “You can guru, you can!” shouted Newt. 
    “You can send him with Owl.” 
    But Owl had gone to sleep. 
    Newt knew too much to be stopped by so small a problem
    “You can take him in your pouch.”
    But alas, Hare was much too big to fit into
    Kangaroo’s pouch. 

  22. I’m now referring to mine as a “Newton” Kind of the definition of a “failed

  23. I prefer “terminal.” Iain Banks uses the term in the Culture novels to refer to each citizens link to the Culture, often in the form of a piece of jewelry or a phone-like device in their pocket. They can contact the Minds (AIs) that run the Culture, call for help, retrieve information with their terminal.

    1. Or better still, name it after one of the Culture Ships.  “New Toy” would be obvious, but “Subtle Shift in Emphasis” also works.  “Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints” is one to keep for the companies that make them.

  24. In other news, on Defiance they call them “Hailers”.

    Has anyone noticed that the industry doesn’t actually call them “cell phones” or their own service “cellular” anymore, in favor of the more vague “mobile”? And among the mobile phone hardware wonks, the phones are known as “handsets”.

  25. carriage > horeseless carriage > car

    telephone > cellular telephone > pho

    calls for sriracha

    1.  There is a Brian Aldiss novel (one of his worse efforts) where they’re called ‘mofos’. Cigarettes were called ‘smokehales’. At this point, I cursed and hurled the book across the room.

      1.  Frederick Pohl predicted a device like this, to be called the joymaker.  See his novel, “The Year of the Pussyfoot.”  Gee, now it sounds dirty.

  26. I’d have called it a collar. And designed it to resemble one.

    .. I just realized that dovetails nicely with the word ‘caller’.

  27. Oh, I’m a little verklempt… Talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic: A smartphone is neither smart nor a phone.

  28. i figured it was an homage to Shadowrun, a cyberpunk tabletop rpg which used the term for the same thing in its second edition in 1992! maybe the first edition too (1989), but definitely in the second. and Shadowrun probably got it from some obscure cyberpunk novel.

  29. Ummm. . . Ummm. . . Wife Number Four!

    I guess it’s tough to stay in touch with reality when you’ve got world history turning on your every thought.

  30. Is it just me, or did Gingrich try to folksy up the concept of the transformation of quantity into quality?

  31. And no one has brought up the PADD yet? Or even tricorder, since it is a communicator, a PADD and an A/V recorder in one package? How the Trek geekery hat fallen!

  32. I’m with Charlie Stross in thinking that the appropriate term is “glowing rectangle”. As in, “I’m sitting here in the dark, poking my glowing rectangle, and then I hold my glowing rectangle up to the side of my head and shout at it”.

    1. I like pants rectangle.

      In fact, I’m liking rectangle for anything with a screen that can do video.

      Just assume any rectangle has a computer and comms unless otherwise specified, eg dumb rectangle for a display.

      Heh, pants rectangle. I look forward to them getting a bit thinner…

      Hey, rectangle includes the word tangle, and a smartphone is indeed a pretty tangly thing, tangling threads from all over, fine and dense.

      Check out my new tangle. Hm, back to the drawing board?

  33.  Which I’m pretty sure they copied from Shadowrun, which was out at least 10 years before that.

  34. Unable to watch the video at the moment, I have been looking through the comments trying to find when this footage was actually made – ten years ago?  Fifteen?

    Because this is just another chuckle at a delightful old anachronism. Right?

  35. Some very witty replies here! But I hope he hasn’t spent too much time trying to find a name for something that already has a name. It’s called a smart phone.

  36. I think what Newt doesn’t realize is that most terms we use for things like cars, movies, etc…; are slang terms that were use so commonly they became part of our regular language. So I say we call it whatever the hell we want and eventually no one will care until the day we have to explain to our children what a phone is.

  37. Regardless of what we agree to call the device he’s holding, I think we can refer to this video as “just one more reason Newt will never be president.”  

  38. It’s a “com”.  It’s used to communicate (or you can think of it as short for “computer”).  Plus com is easy to say.  “Handheld computer” is way too verbose for colloquial speech.

  39. How about PPID. Personal Privacy Invasion Device. And while we are at it lets stop referring to the service as Cell Service and call it PDS. Privacy Disruption Service.

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