Synthetic car names

Regarding the name ‘ciera’ and its variants, Ford had a car model in the UK (where I live) which was named the Sierra. So much for originality - as noted in the original report.

2nd point - I believe that one of the other motives behind coming up with synthetic names was to avoid using words that are either foolish or vulgar in some foreign language. I have heard various tales (possibly apocryphal) of manufacturers going seriously wrong on this point.

3rd point: iirc Mitsubishi had a small car named ‘Colt’, which came in a range named ‘Starion’ (think Japanes pronunciation). Racist I’m sure, but makes me laugh :smiley:

Sienna and such are actual european place names. One article i saw mentioned that Japanese sensibilities were very different from North America or Europe. Some cars there called “Prince” and “Bluebird” which probably sounded cool to the Japanese, but wouldn’t go over well here. Probably the same way things Spanish-Italian-latinish probably sound a lot more cool to English ears than they do to those countries; and French names impart more of a hoity-toity appeal to us than to the French.

My favourite made-up name was the car from the first Robocop movie - “Hey, how do you like my new SUX-6000?” Later they blew one up with a rocket grenade. I wonder which writer or director had a bad experience with which model car?

Or the old vaudeville joke about the Rolls-Canardly; rolls down one hill and canardly make it up the next.

They typically are apocryphal.

Sierra is an actual place name in the US. Google map search Sierra Nevada Mountains. Other car companies have been doing this for years, Yukon, Tacoma, Colorado, Dakota, etc…

Nissan (first under their old name Datsun, and later using the Nissan name) sold a model called “Bluebird” in Australia. It was a medium sized car which the marketers dubbed “the 4 cylinder limousine.” The advertisers then hired the shortest models possible to make the cramped back seat look bigger. Same tactics some airlines now use to make their coach seats seem spacious.

Datsun actually has a German origin. Nissan contracted with a German firm to come up with a name for cars sold in America. But they left it until the ‘last minute’ and told the firm they needed a final name by the following week. The German rep said, ‘Dat soon?’

You don’t think I’d make something like that up, do you? :smiley:

Actually, my favourite is the Mitsubishi Masturbator (Pajero).

This thread needs a link to the column being discussed.

As I recall the story, they couldn’t call the car the Bluebird in the US because the Blue Bird Corporation held the rights to the name for its buses. Odd name considering that everything they build is painted yellow.

Datsun was originally spelled “Datson” because the cars were smaller than those by their parent corporation, DAT. Yes, it was a pun in English for a product only sold in Japan.

Why would the names being synthetic help at all in this regard? I don’t follow the logic here.

Whether it’s true or not–I don’t know–I’d imagine the logic would be that picking real words, particularly in the language of your target audience, are more likely than random collections of phonemes to have slang or underhanded meanings in that target language that you might miss, especially if you’ve laid off your linguistic or lexicographic department (or never had one in the first place). IOW, “Dasani” (made up word) = good; “bottled spunk” = problematic.

Because if I create a word that does not exist in any language then there is less chance (not no chance) that it will have a pejorative meaning. It’d be interesting to write a computer program to create such names. :slight_smile:

As an aside, the VAX/VMS operating system from Digital Equipment had a mechanism for generating passwords, but came with a disclaimer that although they endeavoured not to create obscene names, they could not guarantee this (which implies that somewhere inside the OS was a list of such words).

When I lived in Germany, there was a fashion store there named “Betty London”. I think the ‘London’ bit was intended to add a bit of cool, but to English eyes the use of the name ‘Betty’, dated it horribly to some time in the fifties. :smack:

More likely a list of Regular Expressions covering possible variants, unless the creators were hopelessly naïve.

Actually, “Betty” appears to be accepted as a German name, so English fashion may not govern.

I fail to see why a synthetic name is a priori less likely to be translatable to a regrettable foreign word than an extant word is.

Research, I suppose. One story is that when Esso oil was looking to go international, they wanted avoid the embarrasing translations issue. Someone recalled that the only language that has two Xs together is Maltese (Jimmy Foxx the baseball player is an example). So a bunch of names were generated, Exxon looked good, and a quick look at a Maltese dictionary showed no such word.

You’re saying they would only do research like that with synthetic words? Why would that be?

If they use a real word, they have to do research to make sure it doesn’t sound dirty in a foreign language. If they make up a word, they have to do research to make sure it doesn’t sound dirty in a foreign language.

I’m not seeing the difference.