I am cursed with needing to know the origins of words. Since Uber, the rideshare company, continues to appear in the headlines and conversation (I, too, used it several times in an article I wrote recently), I decided to go in search of the name’s origins. (Note: I have never ridden in an Uber, nor have I actually seen one. I did, however, see some Uber drivers addressing the Corpus Christi City Council this week.)
I discovered that the company name started as “UberCab.” Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, creators of the business who set out to create an end-to-end experience that was reliable and trustworthy, hit a few roadblocks along the way. In May of 2011, UberCab received a cease-and-desist letter from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, claiming they were operating an unlicensed taxi service. Criminal violations were filed and demanded that the company cease operations. UberCab immediately removed the word “cab” and started to operate under the brand name “Uber.” Still, this doesn’t offer a real meaning of the word “uber.”
The word does not exist in my antiquated, out-of-print Oxford Dictionary, so I took a look at an online dictionary. The Merriam-Webster definition is as follows:
being a superlative example of its kind or class : super- <übernerd>
to an extreme or excessive degree : super- <übercool>
This definition compelled me to research the etymology. The Encyclopedia Britannica explains that “uber” is derived from a German word. The entry reads: “Superman, German Übermensch, in philosophy, the superior man, who justifies the existence of the human race. “Superman” is a term significantly used by Friedrich Nietzsche, particularly in Also sprach Zarathustra (1883–85), although it had been employed by J.W. von Goethe and others. This superior man would not be a product of long evolution; rather, he would emerge when any man with superior potential completely masters himself and strikes off conventional Christian “herd morality” to create his own values, which are completely rooted in life on this earth. Nietzsche was not forecasting the brutal superman of the German Nazis, for his goal was a “Caesar with Christ’s soul.” George Bernard Shaw popularized the term “superman” in his play Man and Superman (1903).”
I can’t seem to find anything on why Kalanick and Camp chose this word originally as their brand name. This writer is looking for more information on this topic. If you have anything from a reliable source, please send your comments via The Paper Trail News Facebook page
. I’ll sleep better tonight.
Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day. She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.
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