"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Which car name for you?

Have you noticed all the try-to-be-fancy western names the carmakers are coming up with these days?
You know—The Rainier, The Dakota, The Yukon, The Colorado, The Montana, The Baja, The Santa Fe?
The list goes on as carmakers try to come up with names dramatic, and distinctive to disguise the fact that the cookie-cutter automobiles are not dramatic, and certainly not distinctive.
Fancy names are nothing new, though there was a time when the cars were fancy. That’s back when the East Coast set the pattern. Holdovers are the Buick Park Avenue, The Chrysler Fifth Avenue and New Yorker. But Eastern names may have a curse…Kaiser had a Manhattan, a Virginia and a Carolina, and look what happened to that company. Then there was Plymouth, and the Ford Fairlane.
Sure, long ago Pontiac had a Catalina, and Hudson had a Hollywood, and Chevy a Malibu, but those are exceptions are carmakers look west for neat names.
Problem is, I think they’re going to run out of names.
I mean, Colorado is OK, but who’s going to name a car The California, or Nevada, or Idaho or Nebraska or Kansas or Oklahoma? You have to be careful with names…they carry images that can make or break you. Nobody names their child Jezebel or Cain, do they?
We should be thankful there’s at least a Cherokee—though we share that name with North Carolina; and there’s a Navajo. But what then?
I’d like to suggest a few that’d grab your attention, though they probably won’t sell cars. I don’t imagine you’ll ever hear of these.
How about The Death Valley, which would tend to boil over; or the Mt. St. Helens, which would tend to blow a gasket; or The San Andreas, which would always be out of alignment.
I doubt we will ever have a Lubbock or Amarillo, or an Alamo. Going further west I’ll bet we never have a Little Big Horn, a Great Salt Lake, a Tiajuana or an Exxon Valdez.
If we keep going west, Hawaii is out of luck because nobody east of there can pronounce all those names…about their only chance would be The Pearl Harbor.
Further west, I know all those Japanese cars will avoid the names of the cities where the bombs were dropped. But we might consider The Tianamen Square, The Baghdad, The West Bank, The Chernobyl, The Berlin Wall.
Keep coming west to America and we could name some car The Three Mile Island, or The Florida Election. How about The Rust Belt or the New Jersey?
One car company tries to jazz up their SUVS with names like Expedition, Excursion, and Explorer, to fool you that you’re not stuck in commuter traffic guzzling gas when you drive them. These names are fantasies, not realities, for most Americans. I’ll admit, I drive a Saturn Vue. Notice they didn’t name it after Uranus.
Instead, how about The Rush Hour, or The Traffic Jam, The Smog, The Fender Bender, The Turnpike. You get the idea. Reality car names—better than Reality TV.
Which is also why the American car makers are going broke. Compare that to the Civic or the Accord, or the Camry and Corolla…they even sound like they’re better quality, don’t they? Compare that to the Hummer, which is just obscene as the product.
In Oklahoma, we could have The Broadway Extension, for example. Oh, I guess we could have A Sooner—except they’d all have to be bright red, come with holes in their mufflers so they’d be loud enough, so big they hog the road.
If we want cars named after Oklahoma, I’d suggest the Trail of Tears, The Grapes of Wrath, The Oil Bust, or The Twister. Isn’t that Oklahoma’s image?
Personally I can’t wait for one to be named The Nowhere. Yep, folks, there is a Nowhere, Oklahoma, with a zip code, in southwest Oklahoma. That would be a great symbol for the state and the ideal car for me.
And when someone would ask me where I’m going, I could answer, “I’m going nowhere.”
Which is where this blog is going, so I’ll park it right now.

That's what's brewing in my well-traveled coffee pot.

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