What’s in a name?

11 Jun

Looking through the lists of current models from the automotive industry the preponderance of made up names is obvious. I’ll not name and shame them as these names are all in the public domain; why you may even drive one yourself.

There was a time in my younger days when what manufacturers called their models made some sense, even if some of the did not fit that well with the model concerned, for example a snipe is a very nimble and manoeuvrable bird, but Humber’s saloon was somewhat more ponderous, but in general cars had proper names.

Jaguar saw no use for naming their models and simply used mark numbers, in Roman numerals of course, for its post war saloons and type letters for its sports cars and even if the mark numbers did not run sequentially there was a something right about them. At the upper echelon Rolls Royce were, perhaps, a little fanciful with their Silver Cloud, and later Silver Shadow, but such names did allude to the silent passage that they offered those who rode in them.

Amongst the lower order Ford gave their models names; Perfect, Popular, Anglia and Escort whilst also maintaining type designations below these; E93A, 107E, 109E and so on and every schoolboy worth his salt could tell the difference by the subtle differences in radiator grille and trim between these cars. Their larger models also had type designations, but were better known from a marketing perspective by the grander monikers of Consul, Zephyr and Zodiac.

At Standard Triumph there was a mixture for the latter part of the group named its more ordinary cars such as the Herald whilst following Jaguar practice in having the sportier models bear the TR brand, TR3, TR4 and so on whereas Standard called their model the Vanguard until their brand vanished under the rationalisations of the 1960s; despite its name it had hardly been at the forefront. Rootes Group also favoured names and, in addition to the Humber Snipe mentioned earlier there were also the Minx and Husky.

Some makes simply use numbers and where would Porsche be with their immortal 911 had Peugeot not objected to them calling it the 901 and thus impinging on the French marque’s something oh something range? Numbers are simple though and don’t really concern this story for you can’t make up numbers. No, the source of my complaint here is made up names; they are just silly and lead to all sorts of pronunciation issues; take Ford and the Ka for example. How do you pronounce Ka? To me it is an obvious effort to use letters that should sound like car, but the number of people that I have heard, including owners of these vehicles, using a very short A sound (as in cat) or even as two letter; a K A.

Don’t bring me problems; bring me solutions! Right, well our proposal is that, as with tropical storms, there should be a list of names for the model year, one name for each letter of the alphabet, and each manufacturer with a new model gets the next name off the list. All will be real words (regardless of language) and if that means that if that means that you have to drive a Ford Turnip or a Honda Unwelcome the so be it. Daft? Yes it is, but no dafter that the current crop of names. Will the marketing people cope? Of course they will, after all, who came up with the bright idea of naming a gaming console system with a word that sounds like the one posh people use for piss?

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