Have you ever wondered when people started putting a lowercase `i' in front of words and what it stood for? In that case, read on When was the lowercase "i" before an uppercase anything born, and what did it stand for? Officials at Apple Computer were unhelpful, presumably because they suspected that etymological revelation would cause their stock to plunge again, but Dan Frakes of Macworld magazine informs me that the first i-product was the iMac in 1998: "Apple said at the time that the i in iMac stood for `Internet,' as the iMac was allegedly the easiest computer to connect to the Internet." Why not Imac or I-Mac? "They didn't want to dilute their brand name by lowercasing it (e.g., Imac)." And IMAX Corp, all caps, is a theater network founded in 1967. The iMac led to the iBook, a laptop, in 1999, followed by Apple's iPhoto, iTunes and a bundle sold as iLife. The meaning of i went beyond "Internet" to be taken as "individual," "integrated," "interactive" or -- most appealing to consumers -- "what I want when I want it." Because it is difficult to copyright a letter of the alphabet, other companies jumped in: a furniture manufacturer calls its massage chair an iJoy "to emphasize the `individual' interaction with the chair." Why wasn't iPod, which originally played only music, named iMusic? "Apple planned from the very beginning," says the Times tech columnist, David Pogue, "to expand its mission to text, photos, files and, as of this month, videos." The word pod was chosen, I deduce, to describe an all-purpose media module, its meaning "a container or protective housing," long associated with peas and pregnancy but in recent decades applied to the streamlined fuel compartments under the wings of aircraft.