Stacy Suzy Sally Siri: Steve Jobs Wanted Apple's Voice-Recognition Software to Go by Another Name

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"Siri, why don't you have a better name?"

Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

In Norwegian, Siri means "beautiful woman who leads you to victory."

While, for Americans making use of the iPhone-dwelling robot, "victory" may be less about spiritual/martial/financial fulfillment, and more about finding the closest 7-Eleven ... the rather epic name still seems appropriate. We have questions; Siri -- most of the time -- has answers.

But the name that's now synonymous with voice-recognition came thisclose, it turns out, to being replaced. In a talk in Chicago last night, Dag Kittlaus, one of the co-founders of Siri (the company that developed the Siri software and that was bought by Apple in 2010), discussed the origins of Apple's captivating-and-occasionally-frustrating voice-recognition feature. In the process, he shared a little piece of Siri gossip: Apparently, Steve Jobs, at first, was not a fan of the ladybot's name. And he tried to come up with a name that would, in his estimation, be a little better at leading Apple to victory. 

Kittlaus, however -- who, had his first child not been a son, would have named her Siri -- persevered. "It's a great name," he insisted. When Jobs and his team, ultimately, were unable to find anything Jobs liked better, Kittlaus won. Siri stuck.

This whole what's-in-a-name process, Network World's Yoni Heisler points out, was a common phenomenon during the Jobs era at Apple. Jobs wasn't, at first, a fan of "iMac" as a name. He didn't like "iPod," either. But deadlines came and passed, and with no better alternatives in the running, the CEO acquiesced. The names stayed on. Which is why, today, if you're talking to her at all, you're talking to a robot named Stacy Suzy Sally Siri.

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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