By any other name ...
What Exactly is a Yaris?
I have been fascinated by car names for years. Or rather, for years I have been fascinated the names car manufacturers give to different models of cars and trucks. A lot of them are simply non-words. Like my Toyota Yaris. I did my Wikipedia research. The world’s new authority on everything – but librarians hate it because it makes them pretty useless – says a Yaris is a “model of car made by Toyota”.
Pretty much sums it up in a circular fashion don’cha think? No attempt at some Latin or Germanic derivative. Some Viking or ancient Greek God? Nope. Like a butterfly. An insect that doesn’t particularly like butter and doesn’t remotely resemble a fly, other than it does, in fact, fly. But, in English it is still a butterfly.
Big macho trucks for men with small genitals and women with mullets, like the Tundra – an uninhabitable stretch of northern landscape. Or the Yukon – chunk of the coldest American state where 99.9% of the American population will na-hever, never ever visit. The Avalanche – a natural catastrophe that claims dozens of lives every year.
At least those are real words.
They might be really stupid names for vehicles, but they are real words. Of course it’s all just marketing. “How can we talk the dumbest people in the population into buying trucks that use massive amounts of expensive fuel to perform the least necessary tasks – badly.”
Second criminally overpaid marketing executive, “Let’s give them really stupid macho names and tie them into fantasies of driving loads of bricks over horrible wilderness roads and horses galloping across Texas deserts and stuff.”
First criminally overpaid marketing executive, “Perfect and make sure some tall really good looking gay guy is driving it. Homophobic dweebs and sexually insecure women just love wa-a-ay handsome gay guys.”
But at least they are real words.
Okay here are just a few of those that you see everywhere:
Maxima (not real Latin even though it sorta sounds like it), same with Elantra and Versa.
Impreza and Solara (not real Italian). Spanish? Nope.
Venza, Impreza, Aveo. No. Not Italian, Spanish, Portuguese or anything actually spoken by any real people.
Jetta, Passat, Routan – made by Germans (mostly in Germany), not real German words.
One that has always puzzled me is the Probe. It is a real word and kind of has a new technology spaceship relationship, if you are a true, a real, an honest out-of-the-closet nerd. Other than that it reminds me of a prostate exam, which is not something I want to think about every time I go to get into my car.
The Toyota Prius? An actual, as in real Latin word meaning before (Wikipedia). How did that slip by?
Or the Thunderbird? Great name and very fitting for a super-di-duper muscle car. Landrover – perfect name for what it is and what it is designed to do.
What I find entertaining is that when you get into the best of the best cars, the high end most expensive and best engineered quality cars, all you get is letters and numbers. No names. Mercedes doesn’t give their cars names. Or Volvo. Rolls Royce does, which is just tacky. BMW doesn’t really, but some fan nicknames have stuck to some models.
Finally there is the all-time classic Jeep. Word is, as I always heard it growing up in a military family and verified, once again, by Wikipedia, is that the word Jeep came from a slurring of the initials G.P. for Government Production. The government production vehicle used in World War II we see in all the WW II movies. The actual word Jeep is a truly non-word that became a real word because it simply wormed its way into the English, and then the world language through the process of saturation. Like okay and Coke (used for any kind of carbonated beverage – when I was growing up, a Coke meant anything liquid, fizzy and sugary that came in a can or bottle.)
To wrap this blog up; just pay attention to the little chrome text bubbles on the butt of all the cheap cars as you wander through any large parking lot. It is an adventure in creative marketing that is totally non-intellectual but curious to the point of being almost intellectually fun.
Probe! Really? Ee-yew …
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Dale Clarence Peterson © 2014
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