What’s in a name?
Since the very first ‘Tin Lizzie’ was christened to levy a slice of personalised levity on a Ford Model T, writes Iain P W Robertson, we have indulged our nomenclative fantasies by identifying our cars in a variety of silly, as well as entirely logical monikers.
While not intending to be too serious about the nicknames that we heft onto various possessions, it is worth highlighting that a warm, descriptive appellation can gift that otherwise cold object with a character that it can retain during its operative ownership period. The QB (quartermistress of this parish) calls her green hatchback by an inevitable ‘Kermit’. A similar hue on a chum’s Volkswagen Scirocco has led to him calling it ‘Toadface’, which, if you know the model, is eminently appropriate.
Another colleague of mine has a predilection for collecting old Triumph motorcars (a defunct brand) and his bottle green Toledo is called ‘Villum’, thanks to the VLM that makes up the first three letters of the licence-plate. Another car that he owns has PAB as part of its plates and his wife, who drives that car, calls it ‘Pablo’, although I have also heard her calling it ‘Picasso’, because that is what it is, conveniently (a Citroen Picasso).
Although not in the least amusing, my Skoda Citigo has the soubriquet ‘Shitty-go’, not for a bad reason, it’s just that I suffer from ‘potty-mouth’ from time to time. I am aware of several car names based on acronyms, such as ‘Fix It Again Tony’ for Fiat…’Found On Road Dead’, or ‘Fix Or Repair Daily’, for certain Ford models…while even Pontiac (a lesser American car brand) has resulted in ‘Poor Old Nancy Thinks It’s A Cadillac’ ( a much grander US brand).
In 1999, when Honda launched its intuitive HR-V model, also known as ‘The Joy Machine’ by Honda’s Japanese design operatives, I can recall sitting with several car journalists in a swish Barcelona hotel, seriously under the influence of alcohol, fabricating acronyms for it, which ranged from ‘Highly Radioactive Vehicle’ and ‘Harmlessly Reflective Van’ to ‘Hugely Radical (clinical name for ‘lady-garden’, beginning with ‘V’, that I do not wish to repeat here)’.
A well-known TV presenter, who bought a Bentley Eight with his first large salary cheque, called his car ‘Roley’, largely because what he really wanted was a Rolls-Royce and the less expensive Bentley look-alike had to meet muster instead. A Russian colleague called his tuned-up Mazda MX5 sports car ‘Milosevic’ (pronounced ‘Milosovitch’), because of the perpetual backfiring from its exhaust tail-pipe. I should highlight that the original Serbian and Yugoslav politician was said to be responsible for war crimes following the civil unrest that took place in his country, which makes it somewhat less appealing.
My next door neighbour calls his Porsche Boxster ‘The Kid’, because of its ravenous appetite, constant desire to consume stuff (mainly money) and its uncanny ability to heave the contents of its engine all over the driveway at the least opportune moments. Another Porsche-owning friend calls his lofty Cayenne SUV by the nickname ‘Verty’, which is an abbreviation for ‘vertigo’, a state in which he feels himself sometimes, so high is the driver’s seat off the road.
From colours to people, made-up names to renaming, the desire to provide our vehicles with epithets can be both immensely amusing and massively insulting. We have heard, or used, most of them, including ‘Rustbucket’, ‘Banger’, ‘Bag o’ Nails’ and so on. However, it is a harmless practice that will continue for time immemorial. Of course, you might have a great nickname for your car. Do let us know what it is, the funnier and naughtier the better!