Writing for Business

Jun 20 2012   11:19AM GMT

Laptop or labtop? I’m not even kidding.

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
I’m afraid my _______ has a virus because it’s been slow to respond ever since I opened that attachment.
a. laptop
b. labtop

Answer: a.

Of course, it’s a laptop. Just as a desktop PC sits on a desk, a laptop PC sits on a lap. A Lab would make a poor support for a computer of any type, being an athletic breed that likes to run, swim and play catch.

Do you find it hard to believe that anyone actually thinks the correct term is “labtop”? I was so surprised to find “labtop” in a list of common word errors that I thought maybe the writer had been one short for her list and made it up on the spot. Sooooo… I did a quick search and found:

How to cable your labtop to your TV

Father shoots daughter’s labtop computer

EBay has labtop listings

A Google search for the exact phrase “labtop or laptop” finds 12,500 results. Here’s a sample:

Labtop or laptop? – Yahoo! Answers

10 Apr 2008 – Labtop or laptop? which one is right, I used to call it laptop, then I changed it to labtop, so which one is the right one , or are they both right?

And, of course, posts on tech forums, mostly looking for help (go figure, as they say):

Blue screen Error – Inspirion 1564 labtop

Q&A: Why won’t labtop detect ac adapter? | TechRepublic


Toshiba L505 Labtop Charger Help – General-Laptops-Notebooks

This poignant note is from BleepingComputer.com: “I recently allowed my cousin to borrow my labtop. But I think they may have visited some bad websites. My labtop has been very slow to respond since they used it…”

Maybe if they called it by the correct name it would respond more readily?

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

3  Comments on this Post

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  • IAmAlwaysRight

    ok, so I put my labtop on the lab table inside my lab not on my lap how in the world would you place a computer on your lap when you are standing? Can you believe the ignorance of that?... that's why I call it a lab top...because it's used in a lab not a lap or desk..

    10 pointsBadges:
  • saywa42
    I was once taught by a science teacher that laptops are actually called "labtops" because they were designed to be used in a lab setting.  I don't think anyone would actually think that a computer would get it's name from a breed of dog.  I realize that the correct term is laptop, although personally I prefer not to use the device in my actual lap as they become warm an uncomfortable.  
    Clearly the misconception that my science teacher, circa 1999, had for the correct terminology to describe a style of computer that many people would never consider using in their lap, has been shared by many!!
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  • radoo22
    "Lab" is clearly short for Laboratory, not Labrador Retriever. That's just retarded. Labtop actually makes more sense than Laptop because when you think about the actual device in question, it's a portable computer. And it was invented at a time when computers were big, bulky, not-easily-moved things. For example, someone would have their home computer and their office/work/lab computer, and transfer files back and forth via portable floppy disks. But then the LABTOP came along and now you can take your computer with you to the Lab! How novel. A portable computer that you can take to the lab, rather than just a bunch of crappy floppy disks. I realize everyone (almost) calls them "Laptops" now, but I'm pretty sure the original name was Labtop, not Laptop. Personally, I think Laptop is a stupid name. I mean, yeah, you can put a laptop on your lap, but you can also put it on a desk. You can put it on a bed, you can put it on a kitchen counter. You can put it on a LAB table.... etc. Maybe I should call it a "countertop" when it's in the kitchen? Plus, the sound of the word "laptop", with its two P's, sounds silly. "Labtop" doesn't sound as silly. It sounds correct. I think that's how most people pronounce the word anyway.
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