Satellite dish? When you think about it, dishes aren’t shaped like that

The other day I had a funny thought. Well, at least it made me smile.

This is a typical satellite dish. It’s the sort of thing you could get at Solid Signal if you needed one. It’s the most modern interpretation of what’s called a parabolic antenna.

Parabolic antennas have actually been around since 1888 believe it or not. But, the first one did look a little different:

The basic idea was the same though. Collect as much signal as you can and point it at one receiving element.

But lately the name has begun to bother me.

I tried to do some research as to why they call it a “dish” antenna. Because something really began to occur to me:

See, this is a dish. Some dishes are kind of scoop shaped like a satellite dish, but most aren’t. Even the definition I got from the internet:

a shallow, flat-bottomed container for cooking or serving food.

Even this definition mentions that the thing is flat at the bottom, while a satellite dish isn’t.

Maybe it’s the overall shape?

The word dish comes from the Latin discus which means round. And round it is. Even today’s satellite dishes, while not exactly round, have something of that roundness to them. I think that’s a bit of a stretch though. I don’t know why this was never called a “bowl” antenna because really that’s what it is. It’s a shallow bowl, not a dish.

Or actually, it’s more like…

That’s right. I think we should by all rights call it a satellite spoon. Because, that’s what it is. It’s a domed shape with a stalk underneath it. Friends, that’s not a dish, that is a spoon.

I don’t know honestly why we don’t call it a satellite spoon. You could say that the spoon evolved much later than the fork or knife (or dish for that matter) but I don’t think that’s it. I think someone said “dish” at one point when they could have said “spoon.” It caught on. I don’t know why but it did. Perhaps there’s some far more satisfying feeling to saying the word “dish.” After all, we “do the dishes,” even when we’re just washing glassware. We “dish” on our friends, “dish it out,” and we use a “dishwasher” even when there’s not a single dish in it. Maybe there’s something about the word “dish” that lights up some weird neuroreceptor and that accounts for why we use the word “dish” for a parabolic satellite antenna.

I suppose this isn’t a really important part of the satellite experience, but considering that we’re talking about the name of one of the two largest satellite TV companies in the world, it kinda makes you wonder, just a little bit. Would you be just as inclined to get your satellite entertainment from a company called SPOON Network?


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.