Sunday, 30 April 2017

Car Manufacturers

A look at the origins of the names of a selection of the world's car manufacturers, past and present. Note, when anyone says 'a selection' they mean 'all those I know' - I simply admit it.

Alfa Romeo - taking the second part first, this remembers August 1915 when the company came under the control of entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, he turning the factory over to making military hardware. Note the name change did not happen until 1920, prior to that the company was still known as A.L.F.A. - Anomina Lombarda Fabbrica Automobil 'the Anonymous Lombard Automobile Factory'. It began in 1906 as Societa Anomina Italiana Darracq (S.A.I.D), not until 1910 when Giuseppe Merosi took over as designer did A.L.F.A exist.

Aston Martin - as with so many it was named after the founders, in this case Lionel Walker Birch Maritn and Robert Bamford. Martin began as a first name, itself derived from the Roman Mars, the god of fertility and war (seemingly a conflict of career options); while Bamford is an English place name (of which I know a little bit) meaning 'the ford crossed by beams', the beam being a large enough piece of tree to be used as a bridge.

Audi - is also named after the founder, one August Horch. The German horch means 'listen' and, when translated to Latin, means 'listen'.

Austin - another named after its founder, this time Herbert Austin. While this is thought of as a British company, there were two others: the Austin Automobile Company and the American Austin Car Company. Both were US concerns - the Austin Automobile Company founded by James E. Austin and his son Walter Austin existed from 1901 to 1921; the American Austin Car Company was founded in 1929 and ceased trading in 1956, and named after the British company or, more correctly, their Austin 7 for which they had rights to manufacture and sell a modified version suitable for the USA. As a surname it is a diminutive of the Latin 'Augustus' meaning 'majestic, dignified'.

Bentley - founded and named in 1919 by Walter Owen Bentley. Another English place name, and one meaning 'the woodland clearing where bent grass grows. If you want to know why grass grows this way, you'll have to buy a book!

Bertone - an Italian company founded and named after designer Giovanni Bertone. His surname means 'son of Roberto'.

Bitter - a German, and later Austrian, car manufacturer and named after former racing driver Erich Bitter. His surname means 'harsh, sour, embittered'.

Bugatti - named after founder Ettore Bugatti. Origins of this surname are unclear, but it would be nice to think the suggestion this comes from the same origin as Bogat and Buratto meaning 'bolting'.

Buick - also named after its founder, David Dunbar Buick. This is an alternative spelling of the English name Bewick, itself an English place name and likely means 'the farmstead specialising in barley'.

Cadillac - again named after the founder, one Antoine Laumet de la Mothe sieur de Cadillac, the surname originating in the Breton area of France describes a 'a small one but a strong fighter'.

Chevrolet - named after the founder Louis Chevrolet. This name is a diminutive of the French chevre meaning 'goat'.

Chrysler - again the founder, named after Walter Percy Chrysler. This is a Swiss surname and means 'maker of earthernware utensils' - ostensibly a potter.

Citroen - founder here was Andre-Gustave Citroen. The surname was adopted by his father Levie Citroen, after grandfather had taken the name Limoenman 'lime man' as he was a greengrocer who sold tropical fruit. Son Levie preferred citroen, the Dutch for 'lemon'.

Cowley - named after the place in Oxfordshire where the cars were made, the English place name means 'the woodland clearing where cows are reared'.

Daimler - after Gottlieb Daimler, this is an old southern German word meaning 'cheat, swindler'.

Dodge - named after founders John Francis Dodge and Horace Elgin Dodge, brothers whose surname is thought to be a pet form of 'Roger', itself from the Saxon Hrothgar or 'fame spear'.

Ferrari - named after founder Enzo Ferrari, a former motor racing driver whose surname originates in his ancestors' trade - they were blacksmiths.

Fiat - named after Mr Fiat, no I lie - many will already be aware this acronym stands for Fabbrica Italiana Automobil Torino or 'Italian Automobiles Factory, Turin'.

Ford - after founder Henry Ford, whose surname is as synonymous with cars as the origin is to a river crossing. This comes from Proto-Indo-European prtu meaning 'a going, a passage'.

Hillman - founder William Hillman, not only an English place name but also an occupational name meaning 'a manservant' and a personal name 'a man named Hild'.

Honda - founder Soichiro Honda, whose surname comes from the Japanese hon ta quite literally meaning 'the origin of the field'.

Humber - founded by Thomas Humber, an English place name or correctly a river name meaning ''the dark river'.

Hyundai - not from the founder but a Korean word meaning 'modernity'.

Isuzu - takes the name of the Isuzu River which, when translated into English means 'fifty bells'.

Jaguar - began as the name of a model of a 3.1/2-litre two-seater sports model produced by S.S.Cars Limited, themselves formerly known as the Swallow Sidecar Company. In 1945 shareholders decided that S.S was not the most sensible name for a company and so they adopted the name of Jaguar instead. It was the powerful image of the leaping big cat which adorned the model of that name, later adopted as the image of Jaguar Cars. The cat's name came to Europe as the Portuguese jaguar, itself their rendering of the Tupi jaguara and used to refer to any large predator.

Lada - having any number of references - including settlements in Romania, Poland, and Spain, a rifle, an asteroid, a highland region on the planet Venus, two Russian sports teams, a class of submarine, and even a sewing machine - these should have a single source, almost certainly the Slavic goddess of harmony, merriment, youth, love and beauty whose name comes from the Proto-Slavic meaning 'pretty, nice' or 'order'.

Lagonda - is named after the Shawnee name for what is now known as Buck Creek in modern-day Springfield, Ohio the birthplace of forder Wilbur Gunn. It is thought lagonda should be loosely translated to 'ultimate luxury'.

Lamborghini - from its founder Ferrucio Lamborghini which is one of many variations on the surname Lambo or 'son of Lambert', which comes from landa 'realm,estate' and berhta 'famous, illustrious'.

Lancia - named after its founder Vincenzo Lanzia, whose surname comes from his ancestors being armourers or, more specifically, a soldier who carried a lance from the Latinlancea.

Leyland - is an English place name meaning 'untilled land'.

Lincoln - named by founders Henry Leland and his son Wilfred Leland after Abraham Lincoln who, aside from his more famous roles in laying railways, chasing vampires and guest appearances in the majority of science fiction television programmes of the sixties, also found time to become president of the United States of America. His surname comes from the English place name meaning 'the Roman colony by the pool'.

Lotus - is a brand name, one also used for a board game, a bakery, a watch, rice, software, a chain of supermarkets, and a brand of toilet paper. Many were likely suggested by Greek mythology, although there are so many plants known as the 'lotus' (and bearing little resemblance to one another) it is difficult to know just what the name describes the plant as. The plant genus lotus comes from lota, the name of a sphrical water vessel used in southern regions of Asia.

Maserati - founded by brothers Alfieri, Bindo, Carlo and Ettore Maserati (it seems they couldn't think of one beginning with 'D'), their surname origins are unclear. However one suggested translated likens it to the English 'macerate', a word I have no recollection of hearing and thus looked in the good old Oxford English Dictionary to find it has two possible meanings: 'to waste away by fasting' (fast = speed, I can see that); and 'to become soft by soaking' (I shall refrain from commenting).

Mazda - for years my first thought when hearing 'Mazda' was a light bulb, but you do have to be of a certain age to recall that name. The car company state their name comes from Ahura Mazda, with ahura the word for 'god' and mazda meaning 'light' - so the light bulb was right.

Mercedes - founded by Austrian diplomat Emil Jellinek, he named the company after his daughter Mercedes Adrienne Ramona Manuela Jellinek, who lived a rather sorry life. Her name comes from the Spanish title of the Virgin Mary, Maria de las Mercedes, or 'Mary of the Mercies'.

Morgan - named after the company's founder Henry Frank Stanley Morgan, his surname a first name with an uncertain etymology. What is known is the Welsh for water sprites is 'morgans'.

Morris - named after founder and former bicyle manufacturer William Morris, a surname from the first name Maurice, itself from the Roman Mauritius a derivative of Maurus meaning 'a Moor'.

Nissan - is an abbreviation of the Nihon Sanhyo holding company, it means 'Japan Industries'.

Oldmobile - have always thought this the worst possible name for a car manufacturer, even though it is named after the founder Ransom Eli Olds whose surname comes from the Old English eald meaning 'old'.

Opel - named after founder Adam Opel, the origin of his surname is unknown.

Packard - named after founding brothers James Ward Packard and William Doud Packard, their surname comes from a French derogatory term for a 'peddler'.

Peugeot - founded by Armand Peugeot, sadly the origins of the surname is unknown.

Pontiac - takes the name of the Michigan city named after the war chief of the Ottawa people and whose name comes from the Algonquian Obwandiag thought to have three possible meanings 'stopping it/him' or 'a stick planted in the ground' and even 'spit roasted, boiled'.

Porsche - the surname has Slavic origins and means 'famous fighter'.

Reliant - is an odd name for a car because while it was clearly chosen for being 'reliable' the word actually means 'dependent upon' and not 'depend on'. Originating from Old French the word first came to English to mean 'binding' from the Latin religare and shares a common root with 'ligament'.

Renault - founders Louis Renault, Marcel Renault, and Fernand Renault share a name derived from Germanic sources and meaning 'counsel, rule'.

Rolls Royce - taking the names of founders Charles Rolls and Henry Royce, their respective surnames respectively come from: Germanic name Hrolf meaning 'wolf'; and ultimately a variant of 'rose' which, because of its thorns, means 'wicked'.

Rover - clearly suggesting something that 'roves, travels', the real meaning is 'to wander with no fixed destination' and used in its earliest sense to refer to arrows shot willy-nilly without a target. Furthermore the first use of 'rover' is as a Dutch word meaning 'plunderer', robber, predator' and even 'pirate'. Interestingly the names for 'bicycle' in Polish and Belarusian are derived from the company name, the company did once produce bicycles.

Saab - is an abbreviation of Svenska Aeroplan AB, where 'Sweish Areoplane' is followed by (much as Limited is abbreaviated to Ltd) AB or Aktiebolag meaning 'limited company' or 'corporation'.

Studebaker - a German name, the family arriving in the New World at Port Philadelphia on 1 September 1736 included Peter, Clement, Henry, Anna and Anna Studebecker. They set up business in Pennsylvania producing waggons but having tweaked their name to Studebaker - both meaning 'baker of fine white bread'.

Suzuki - named after founder Michio Suzuki, whose surname means 'bell wood', 'bell tree' or 'bud tree'.

Talbot - named after Charles Chetwyn Talbot who, after a successful business operating hansom cabs (and cabs with the first noiseless tyres seen in either London or Paris!), went on to produce motor cars. His surname is thought to be of Germanic origin, where tal 'destroy' and bod 'message' talk of him as a 'messenger of destruction'.

Toyota - named after founder Kilchiro Toyoda whose surname means 'fruitful rice paddy'.

Vauxhall - named from the English place name meaning 'hall of a man called Falkes' the perosnal name meaning 'falcon'.

Volkswagen - is, as virtually everyone knows, the German for 'people's car'.

Volvo - is the Latin for 'I roll', a refers to the (then) unique ball bearings used in manufacturing. The idea it is derived from a part of the female anatomy is about as credible as it being named after the character Volvo in the episode of Fireball XL5 entitled Planet of Platonia.

Hence car buyers may well be correct when describing their purchase as a 'lemon, cow, goat' or describing the seller as a 'daimler' I mean 'cheat'. The piece is written in English hence the English spellings.

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