Say, what's the name of your car?
Published: Sunday, October 24th, 2004
Many psychologists say that in America our cars define us - which when you think about it, is kind of frightening. I mean, look at the car names for heaven’s sake. Do you remember the “Gremlin”? Cars don’t have enough little problems that they had to call one a “Gremlin”? Personally, I would like a car that had no relation whatsoever with gremlins. On that same line there is the Pontiac “Banshee” which basically translates as an Irish monster that screams a lot. Monsters that scream and automobiles - Good pairing in my mind. Who thinks up these names? Do you remember “Le Car?” - that little....thing by Renault? It was such a questionable vehicle that Renault felt they had to literally tell people that it was a car before they would be convinced. I grant you they did put a French “Le” in front of it, but they still felt the need to keep you posted it really was a “Car”. But I have to admit they had the courage to call it a “Car.” Do you remember the Volkswagen “Thing”. It may have just been German honesty saying, “Vell, ve cant really call it an auto. I mean look at da vay it looks, so vat can ve call da ting?” And some secretary sitting there taking notes raises her hand and says, “Excuse me sir, did you say the name of this car is the ‘Thing?’” “Ya, Ya dats it!” And everybody dances around in those German shorts and drinks beer. That’s probably how Volkswagen got the name for the “Justy” too. “Vell, it’s justy little car so vat can ve call it?” The same secretary didn’t hear too clearly and there you are - more dancing and beer. And what about the “Reliant”? For me at least when I get a car, I want one that is reliable. Then I can be reliant on it. I don’t want it working the other way around. That’s just a little frightening if you ask me. I think there is even less thought going into other cars. How can you call a car a “Citation?” That’s just another word for a traffic ticket. Yeah, a traffic ticket is what I want to be reminded of every time I look at my registration. I can just see the state policeman coming up to my car window after he has stopped me. “So what is this? he asks gesturing at my vehicle. “A ‘Citation,’” I respond. He smiles and says, “You got that right!” breaks out in laughter and proceeds to write it out. It’s just an invitation to get tickets, I tell you. There are some places you just don’t want to go in reference to the names of cars. For instances, did you know that “Previa,” you know the Toyota, is in fact an obstetrical disorder? I mean it! Look it up. And I don’t even want to know what kind of doctor they were talking to when they came up with the “Probe.” And did you know that “Toronado” is Spanish for “Swimming Bull.” Now there’s a message to go with a powerful Oldsmobile. Speaking of Oldsmobiles, what is an Alero anyway? It sounds like some sort of foot fungus. “I’m sorry sir you’ll have to use this powder in your socks for the next six weeks. I’m afraid you have Alero.” It doesn’t help when the car companies start turning to mythology either. Take the VW “Phaeton”- the car that is supposed to be VW’s entry into the high-end market. In Greek mythology, Phaeton was the son of the sun god. Phaeton asked his dad to borrow the sun (I imagine for a date or something) and he lost control of it and scorched a lot of earth. Zeus got upset and killed him. Yeah, this is a message I want to send with the name of a car - bad decision, loss of control and death. Yep, my kind of car. But the worst car name (at least this year) for me is another Volkswagen. It is the “Touareg.” I just can’t like a name that sounds like the noise my wife’s cat makes when it is coughing up a hairball.
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