Trump’s “Tim Apple” Gaffe Is No Gaffe at All

It’s a sensible way to remember someone.

This March 7, 2019 photo illustration in Washington, DC shows the Twitter feed of Apple chief executive Tim Cook, who turned into 'Tim Apple' on social media Thursday, March 7, 2019 after a slip-up by US President Donald Trump sparked a viral moment on Twitter. - The Twittersphere reacted after a Wednesday, March 6, 2019 White House meeting where the US president thanked 'Tim Apple' for the tech giant's investments and job creations. Cook changed his Twitter handle the following morning, using the Apple icon and his first name to get in on the fun. Some Twitter users offered other suggestions for the president including Bill Microsoft (Gates), Elon Tesla (Musk) and even George America (Washington). (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)        (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Tim Cook mocked Trump on Twitter, but was Trump so wrong? STRINGER/Getty Images

In an American Workforce Policy Advisory Board meeting on Wednesday, President Trump mistakenly referred to Apple CEO Tim Cook as “Tim Apple.” The gaffe became an instant joke á la covfefe, and the next day Cook decided to change his display name on Twitter, trading in his last name for an Apple logo symbol. Whether in so doing he was trolling Trump, as some people read it, or palling around with him, as others did, depends on your interpretation.

I’m not sure why the whole Tim Apple thing took off as a gag like it did, to be honest. Trump remembered that the guy’s first name is Tim and that he works for Apple, which is really not bad considering who we’re talking about here. Besides, for Trump’s purposes, isn’t it more important that Cook works at Apple than that his last is Cook? If Trump only has room for two things in his head—a real possibility—it seems better that he would retain Apple and not Cook. (If Trump followed the Tim Apple formulation for his own name, interestingly enough, he would still be Donald Trump. Maybe this is how Trump thinks names should work.)

My stance that “Tim Apple” isn’t a big deal is also based on the reality that most of us are guilty of having “Tim Apple”-ed someone at sometime or another. You know, put someone in your phone contacts as “first name + how you know them”? Often because you don’t actually know their last name? Online dating is notorious for generating contact lists full of Angela OKCupids and Greg Tinders, and IRL, “first name + bar where you met them” is a classic, as are variations like “Brittany Canada Whore,” first popularized by Brody on The Hills over a decade ago. At the opposite of the not-knowing-someone’s-full-name stage of relationships is when you do know their name and change it in your phone to something like “Do NOT Answer This,” or, more creatively, “Trashfire Daddy.”

It works in nonromantic scenarios too: Looking through my phone, I see a “Dr. Fertility for Story,” which must be a fertility doctor I talked to for an article once, an “Avery’s Dad Pete,” an “Avery’s Mom Kathleen” (no, I’m not going to explain why I have my friend Avery’s whole family in my phone), a Naz Downstairs, and a Lindsey Airbnb. Sure, this kind of context might be more suited to the memo or notes area of the contacts entry, but who has time for that? If it works, it works. If I ever met Tim Cook and got his number for some reason, shoot, I might put him in my phone as Tim Apple. I can just see myself getting a call from someone named “Tim Cook” and struggling to remember who in the world that is, but “Tim Apple” tells me all I need to know. Using the Apple logo would be a bridge too far, though—sorry, Tim, I have an Android.