Our New Robot Underlings
I and the pheromone-harmonious cohabitant moved recently. We love our new place, and keeping it tidy has been made easier by my mom’s housewarming gift: A Roomba.
“Roomba” seems to have wedged itself into the same linguistic nook as “Kleenex” and “Google”: A brand name dominant enough to become a general term for whatever it does. We didn’t have a word for “A robot that cleans the floor,” and now we do. It’s a brilliant mishmash of “room” and “robot.” The word’s a fine example of how a tiny modification can make all the difference. “Roombot” is a fun word, and evocative. But shave off just a little, turn the hard-consonant ending into a schwa, and you’ve got a word that’s easier to say, has much more personality, and is still recognizable meaning-wise. As in a physical craft, sometimes sanding off just a little bit makes the whole piece work.
I wonder what more general term might come into being. You could go a few different styles here. “Autovac” or “Vacbot” are reasonably utilitarian. Maybe a cute behavioral descriptor like “Grumbler” or “Putterer” if you want to sound more personal. There’s always the cool acronym method. Autonomous Vacuum Interior Drone(AVID)? They could just as easily go by a much broader-sounding term like “cleaner.” Or, in the same way the assumed meaning of “phone” has changed from landline to mobile, maybe in the future “vacuum” will by default mean robot vacuum, and you’ll have to say “manual vacuum” to clarify when you talk about the old fashioned kind.
I look forward to other boring household tasks’ becoming instantly cool via the Everything Is Cooler With Robots principle.