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It's All In The Name - - - The good and bad of naming a car

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It’s All In The Name?


The car, the jalopy, the family truckster, the get-a-bout, the grocery getter, and the rust bucket are just a few of the generic names we have given to our automobiles. Some names are for the affection we have with our ride, while others are for a certain condition or appendage on the car. Hollywood has even gotten into the act of naming cars and making movies about them. “Christine, Herbie, Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang, and a whole lot more. Now, I haven’t named every car or truck I’ve owned, but there have been a few memorable cars that deserved a little recognition with an appropriate name.

Giving cars a name has been around for generations. Even back to the time of the horse and buggy they all had a name given to them by their owners. Just about every car make or model carries some sort of connotation or quirky acronym depicting that particular vehicle. Even the car manufacturers have to give each of their products a name. How else would you know what somebody was talking about if it didn’t? It could be a series of numbers, an acronym, or a name that just sort of goes with the style of car. What you call your car, or what the manufacturers label their car can be just as important as any other part of the car. In some aspects it could depict the reliability behind the name, or it could be what distinguishes it from another car and/or its faults.


There have been a few names over the years that have that kind of reputation. The Edsel, Corvair, AMC Pacer, and so on. Just the mere mention of the name of some of these models gets you thinking about some aspect of that particular car. Then there are those production names that if taken out of context are not all that well accepted in certain company, such as the Probe, Hummer, Swinger, and the like. There are a few names that I never quite figured out how they ever decided on using them together. The Dodge Ram for example; two words that in certain contexts means to avoid… or smash into. Surely somebody at Dodge noticed that too.


How about some of the spelling of these names from the manufacturers? Half the time when I’m writing up an invoice for a certain car, and I’m not sure of the correct spelling I’ll just scribble something that looks sort of like the name, and wait until I get out to the car and copy it down correctly. Look how many different spellings there are for Sequoyah for instance.

Some manufacturers pick out names related to certain natural occurrences. VW for a long time named all their cars after different winds from around the world. Even more hilarious is the pronunciation of some of these car names. Come on admit it, the first time you looked at the word “Prius” you pronounced it wrong (me, too). There are some of these car names I probably still don’t pronounce correctly, and I’m sure I will always pronounce them wrong.


Naming a manufactured car probably goes through a number of tightly guarded secret meetings, sketch ideas, advertising thoughts, and a whole lot of thinking before they actually place the name badge onto the car or truck. You’d think with all the resources they have at their disposal, every contingency has been covered, every angle has been looked into, and no stone is left unturned in the search for the perfect name for their next assembly line creation. You would think so wouldn’t ya? Well, sometimes somebody slips up, goofs, or forgets to check what their latest named drawing board creation means in another language. Some of these names can end up with some very embarrassing results. Here’s a few.


Nova – In Spanish it reads as “no va” (two words) a loose translation means, “No go, or will not”


Parisienne – In French it means, “French lady from Paris”.


Fiera – In some Latin American countries “Fiera” means, “Ugly, old woman.”


VW Jetta – In Italian the letter J is rarely used. Meaning that in some dialects, especially near Naples, the name is pronounced “Letta”. And that translates as “throw away”.

Mitsubishi Pajero – In Spain the Pajero is sold as the Montero. (Good thing) Pajero in Spanish is a crude word for masturbation.


Rolls Royce Silver Mist – Never heard of one? There’s a good reason why. Rolls Royce renamed the Silver Mist to the Silver Shadow just before any were sold. In Germany “mist” means “manure”.


Mitsubishi Starion – Originally Mitsubishi wanted to call it the Stallion, keeping up with their line of cars named after horses. However when the word “Stallion” is spoken with a heavy Japanese accent it is pronounced “Starion”. Instead of sending any paper work about the official name to the factory making the name badges, it was done by phone, and yes, in Japanese of course. The name plates were manufactured and installed onto the cars before anyone spotted the error. The name literally, and figuratively, is stuck to the cars now.


Pinto – When Ford decided to market the Pinto in Brazil they had to perform a hasty name change. In Brazil, the word “pinto” is the slang nickname for the male member.


Toyota MR2 – Who could be offended by a name such as MR2? Well the French it would seem. When spoken, “MR2″ would be pronounced “me-re-de”, or in translation s**t. Toyota’s practical solution. Remove the “2” from the name badge for all the French marketed cars.


So what’s in a name? Sounds like quite a bit. There’s a name for every car out there, some good some not so good. And, I’m sure they’ll be hundreds more movies, songs, and books written about a certain named car in the future. Whether it’s a little, bitty 3 wheeled car, or a gigantic 18 wheeler there’s a name that fits the personality of the vehicle and its owner. When it comes to our contraptions, exotic rides, or just the plain everyday around town cars… you can be sure of one thing…, you can call it anything you’d like, because it really is… all in the name.



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Man, this can go on forever. Never thought about, but there's a lot more behind a name than I realized.


A little off topic, but it still deals with car names. When I worked for Ford in the 1970s, we had a customer who bought a Ford Granada. He picked it up and returned the next morning to show the salesman something. On the driver's side of the car was the name Granada, and the passenger side had Monarch (Mercury's version of the same car). We never did find out if this was a joke from a factory worker or just a mistake.


When asked if he wanted the Monarch name removed and the Granada nameplate installed, he said "No, are you kidding? This is priceless. This will be the talk of the town."


After all, it's in the name, right?

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