Better names for cars

Dec. 12, 2002
As is our custom at the approach of the holiday season, this column is devoted to whimsical themes. Any time I attempt to be a comedian, readers advise me not to quit my day job.
View other Ron
Khol editorials

Nevertheless, today's topic of inconsequential facts concerns the names of automobile companies and the alphabetical designators they give to their models.

My interest in car names began when I heard someone observe that Chevrolet, when choosing the name Monte Carlo for a new coupe, could just as well have called it the Carlo Monte. But the main theme here will be the interesting words that come from spelling names backwards.

We begin by noting that south of the Tampa Airport along the interstate is a billboard topped with large outlined letters reading: "ATOYOT." But if you view the sign from the opposite direction, it reads: TOYOTA. The word Toyota is not exactly a palindrome (a word that reads the same backwards as forward), but it comes close. Toyota is also unusual because each letter in its name, when a capital, is symmetrical.

A characteristic of Japanese car companies is that their names spelled backwards are pronounceable and have much the same ring as when spelled correctly. Thus, Nissan, Mazda, Honda, Subaru, Isuzu, and Suzuki become Nassin, Adzam, Adnoh, Urabus, Uzusi, and Ikuzus. Mitsubishi turns out better as two words, Ihsi Bustim.

The names of western car companies are also interesting when spelled backwards. Cadillac, Pontiac, Saab, and Audi become Callidac, Caitnop, Baas, and Idua. Volkswagen and Volvo yield the Russian-sounding Negawsklov and Ovlov. Aston Martin comes out Nitram Notsa. There is also fun to be had messing with model names. Honda has an exact palindrome in Civic. Oldsmobile comes close to a palindrome with Aurora turning into Arorua.

Chevrolet has an interesting bunch of backward spellings in Nabrubus, Alapmi, Rezalb, Reilavac, Ubilam, Rekcart, and Oramac. Dodge has the Atokad, Ognarud, Noen, Sutarts, Mar, Navarac, and Dipertni. Ford has Regnar, Suruat, Airotciv, and Ratsdniw. Lincoln has the Rotagivan. Kia has the Anodes, Artceps, and Egatrops. Toyota has the Ardnut and Amocat. Pontiac has the Ma Snart. Rolls Royce has the Rups Revlis.

Interestingly, model alphabetical designators cluster in certain letters, while other letters are decidedly out of favor. I did an informal unscientific count by simply perusing newspaper advertisements, and among the SLTs, GLs, and sundry other designators, I found that S was the favorite letter, with 37 instances; L had 32, X was found in 24, G in 15, T in 14, E in 10, and C in six models. I found little or no instances of J, N, O, P, U, or Y. It is worth noting that the letter X is one of the favorites, but in the aircraft industry it denotes an experimental vehicle not ready for the market, and one that is not necessarily speedy or dashing.

I may be able to contribute something to automotive marketing by offering suggestions for new names. A companion car to the Dodge Stratus could be called the Cumulonimbus. An SUV from Mercedes could be named the Uber Alles. People prone to road rage could buy a Discord. Environmentalists could help their cause by forgetting about electric vehicles and instead urging people to buy an IUD.

Finally, my favorite spell-backward model is the Lumina. You can experience the joy of discovery by spelling that name backwards on your own.

-- Ronald Khol, Editor
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