People are really excited about rideable scooters lately. Wiz Khalifa was arrested for riding one at the airport. J.R. Smith has started using them after games. Jamie Foxx brought one on Fallon.
Skrillex rides them around at shows, and even though he's rich and famous, it comes off as a chill and fun thing to do rather than a weird celebrity stunt like Kanye riding an elephant or something. And why not? Even the nicest two-wheelers are only $800, so it's one of the cheaper Crazy Celebrity Things you can buy.
The problem is, people keep calling them hoverboards. It was right in the headlines for l'Affaire Wiz; The New York Times used the headline "Wiz Khalifa Arrested For Refusing To Get Off Hoverboard." But he wasn't on a hoverboard. He was on a scooter.
It's become so bad that, if you Google "hoverboard" right now, you'll see a bunch of shopping links for two-wheeled scooters.
But they're really not hoverboards. Hoverboards hover. They don't make physical contact with the ground. That's what separates them from skateboards, bikes, and everything else. The scooters look cool, but they're really just pole-free segways, and they're not bringing us any closer to the dream of levitating transport.
To clarify, this is a hoverboard.
These are not hoverboards.
You can see the wheels moving. Is it rude to point that out? The wheels are right there.
This is embarrassing, but I'm going to quote the definition of "hover" now. If that's too hacky for you, I'm sorry, but I want to be absolutely clear about what it means for something to "hover," and the expectation you're creating when you attach "hover-" as the prefix to another word.
hov·er \ˈhə-vər, ˈhä-\
to float in the air without moving in any direction
It says it right there — "float in the air." It has to float! To recap:
This is a hoverboard.
These are not hoverboards.
It's still up for grabs what we want to call these. Sam Sheffer likes "rideables," which I think is totally respectable and fine. I could also live with "motorized wheelcraft" or "zoomplank." I'm not really a naming guy. But I think we can all agree it would be weird to call it a "burrowing vehicle" if there was no actual burrowing capability involved.
Applying that logic more broadly: these are not hoverboards.
I don't want to be a downer here. People love saying "hoverboard," and they love the idea that they're riding one. Why can't Skrillex call his zoomplank whatever he wants?
But if we do that, we're giving up on the idea of a true hoverboard. A lot of people are actually trying to build them, only to be scooped by these low-riding segway knockoffs. If this keeps up, soon we won't even be able to ask for a real hoverboard, because we will have sacrificed the basic tools by which we construct meaning, all for the greater glory of the motorized wheelcraft.
So remember, and tell your friends: hoverboards hover. They don't have wheels. Accept no substitutes.