Friday, November 4, 2011

Naming Cars

I decided to share this writing from 2008.  I saw where car sales were up and decided this would be fun to share. 

I got a call yesterday from my cousin.  She had just gotten a new car and wanted my help in naming it.  She called me back today with the new name, she told me that her husband had thought she was crazy naming the car.  That got me thinking, usually when I get a new car; I name it.  I remember my friends always commenting on how strange it was that my family named its’ vehicles.  My mother does, my brother does, I do, my cousin does…etc.  Somehow giving a name to your car personalizes it, makes it yours, and gives it life and meaning.  We have all met people who love their car, but don’t name it.  Call me crazy, but I talk to my car and like to be able to call it by name especially when I have to pass someone or I’m driving in bad weather.  I pat my car in loving praise or slap the dash when it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. 

I got thinking about what makes a good name for a car.  It can’t be too long, a couple of syllables only.  If the name is a couple of words long, you want to make certain that it has a cute nickname.  Let me give you some examples of what I mean.  Two of my cars have been named “flash.”  The first was “the green flash,” the second is simply “flash.”  I had a Subaru that my cousin named “Ruby” because I got it the weekend of our Aunt & Uncle’s 40th (ruby) wedding anniversary.  What made the name really cute was it could be called “Ruby Subie.”  Her latest car she named “Scout” because it is the same color as her scoutmaster’s shirt.  My mom’s car is named “Hallie” because she bought it on Halloween, and my brother’s van is named “Goldie” because it is big, gold colored, and well appointed.  My best friend’s first car was called “Penny.”  She used this name for two reasons, the first was the car was copper in color like a copper penny and secondly the first car she ever drove had the name “Penelope Pig,” “Penny” or “the pig” for short.  It was a huge 60 something, Chevy Biscayne.  I could go on & on with the names such as “Truck, truck,” “Red Wing” or “Giddy-up-Go,” but the point I want to make is that the name needs to flow off you tongue with ease and should have some meaning behind it. 

It may take time even years before a car names itself; for example, I had another Subaru that after a few years of calling it “the Subaru” needed some bodywork to pass inspection.  At about the same time the valve gasket started to leak, so the car got named…”Tin man” after the character in the Wizard of Oz because it had tin and rivets on the fenders and often asked “oil can, oil can.”  My best friend had a Hyundai that she had owned for years.  As she recalls I was upset that she had owned it for a long while without naming it, but once when we were traveling the car started to have problems with the fuel pump and died on route 95.  At that same time our friend in PA had shared with us a limerick he had made up about “there once was a lady named Ida, who liked to drink apple cid-ah…I won’t continue because it gets gross from there, but suffice it to say that when my friend’s car had a gas problem, she got named Ida.  And lastly, my father had an AMC Gremlin that he drove many years without a name.  When my best friend and I drove it (it was quite old by that time) we commented on how it rattled, had no get-up and go and you had to down shift and pump the brakes to stop.  We felt like we had to put our feet through the floorboards to get going and to stop and the shape reminded us of the Flintstone’s car, so we dubbed it “the Boulder Buggy.” 

Many times I hear people refer to their vehicles in the female vernacular, “what’s wrong with your car?  Oh, her heater’s not working right.”  “I like your truck.  Yeah, she’s a beauty.”  I had a teenager ask me why I always called inanimate objects “her” or “she?”  The only answer I had for him was that I was taught that way.  But I bring this up because of something I had been told by a friend of mine regarding how to name vehicles.  For the sensitive who may read this, you might want to stop here.  If a car is an automatic, gearshift on the steering column it’s a girl.  If a vehicle is a standard, stick shift it is a boy.  If you wonder why I told the sensitive to stop before, you may want to go back to biology class.  I have to say that most of today’s vehicles do not have gearshifts on the steering column (I’m dating myself,) so the theory of on the column, off the column doesn’t work.  Also the same friend who told me this had a standard, stick shift on the floor, 4x4 truck named “Lola.”  We laughed about how the truck must be confused.  And you remember “Tin man,” he was an automatic and “Ruby” was a standard, stick shift.  Oh well, so much for that…I just think it is a fun thing to consider when picking a name.

One last bit of thought of naming cars & trucks, not every vehicle has a name or gets a name.  As sad as that may sound, some vehicles are just modes of transportation, a way to get from here to there, pieces of moving metal on the highway of life.  Not all my cars have had names, they’ve been known by their make, model or vehicle distinction (i.e.: “it’s out in the Honda” or “ let’s take the Focus” or how about “ I left it in the truck.”)  This is kind of impersonal, but let’s face it, some inanimate objects are just that- inanimate objects.  When I was talking about this with my friend I made the statement that the cars that got names are the ones that “talked” to me or “told me” to name them.  No, I’m not hallucinating or taking drugs, I’m talking about that moment in time when the inanimate takes on a personality and you just know inside this piece of metal is a living, breathing piece of machinery asking to be recognized and named.  Names are associated with memories and some vehicles, sad to say are not memorable.  You just “bought the car cause you had to,” there’s no special occasion to associate with the purchase, after years of driving it no special memories are attached, it simply did not speak to you.  For some of you, you’re thinking how strange I am, but for those who enjoy driving and understand what it means to have a vehicle speak to you, this is not odd, I know I am not alone.

Well I’ve mused enough for now.  Just remember when you name your vehicle make it short, make it personal and don’t worry whether it is a boy or girl…you’ll know by how stubborn it is.

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