Trial Balloon

Baby, You Can Name My Car

Posted at 6:00 AM on March 11, 2010 by Dale Connelly (39 Comments)

Radio Heartland has tickets to give away to see Joe Henry this Sunday, March 14th, at The Dakota in Minneapolis. Show time is 7pm. .
Enter the drawing.
Obey the rules.
Good luck.

"Names" week continues here on Trial Balloon.

The Auto Show is underway at the Convention Center in Minneapolis - a wonderful opportunity in a down economy to pay for the chance to be surrounded by shiny new things you can't afford to own.

Some analysts say our cars are more than mere vehicles - they represent an idealized version of who we think we are. If this is even remotely true, the names of cars deserve attention. Is there a reality / image disconnect?

In my case, absolutely. I drive a Forester, although you will rarely find me in the woods. And if you DID find me in the woods, there's a good chance I'd be lost or confused or cornered, trapped in the crook of an old oak by angry raccoons demanding treats. But I would like to be thought of as a person who is knowledgeable about trees and competent enough to be alone in the woods without putting search-and-rescue teams on red alert or creating a hazard to animals and the environment.

So maybe there is some wishful thinking going on there.

The other family car is a Corolla. I didn't know it until just now when I finally decided to look it up, but "corolla" is a collective name for the petals of a flower when they are viewed as a group. So as a Corolla driver I have been facing city traffic with the force and personality of a lovely blossom. And all the while I thought "Corolla" was derived from the term "corollary" which in mathematics and logic means "a proposition that follows as a natural consequence of proving another proposition." That's why, when the car was new, I would sit behind the wheel and announce "I am saving big money at the grocery store," expecting my Corollary to automatically take me there as an unavoidable outcome of my brilliant deduction. When it didn't budge, I assumed the problem was lack of proof.
Now I know I was just being stupid.

But I'm sure the people at Toyota are glad to hear at least one story about the car where it doesn't take off on its own. Speaking of Toyota, I have also owned a Camry. Wikipedia, which is thought to be at least as reliable as Toyota these days, says the word "Camry" is an anglicized pronunciation of a Japanese term meaning "Crown", and it's also an anagram for "My Car". But if the name is just an anagram, why not re-arrange it again, from "Camry" to "Marcy"? "Marcy" sets a much friendlier tone and it suggests a responsible sort of personality who would never go racing off with you against your will, unless it was to take you to the library to pay an overdue fine.

Corporate name changes often follow a major public embarrassment. Maybe when this has all blown over, the letters in "Toyota" could be shuffled to say something more happy / friendly / humble sounding, like "Yatoot"! I would go to my dealer's "Yatoot-a-thon", but I would be sure to bring a face mask and some room freshener.

It's worth a thought.

Does your car's name reflect who you are, or who you THINK you are?

Comments (39)

Yes, indeedy, something to think about.

My first car was a Ford Falcon i called "Independence" --- Falcons fly, and that is what I did, graduated college and was released from the nest to find my way in the world.

Next car was a VW Rabbit...inherited from a broken marriage. Moving a little less farther and closer to the ground.

I dont' know what the Ford Escorts said about me...a friend called the model a "workhorse" -- but the two of them escorted me into the next phase of my life, for sure.

Now I drive a Pontiac Vibe...for vibration? Or, as the Beach Boys' song "Good Vibrations" It's a Toyota engine and platform, a knock-off of the what does THAT mean?

Morning all!

Posted by cynthia in mahtowa | March 11, 2010 6:13 AM

I drive a Saturn-I guess that makes me a space case!

Drive carefully Heartlanders-it's foggy out there.

Posted by Beth-Ann | March 11, 2010 6:18 AM

I spent three years researching my last car purchase, and in the end I came up with the most logical car in the world for me, right down to the color. I have a green Subaru Outback (virtually the same car you drive, Dale). It is exactly the right car for my lifestyle and personality.

But "Outback"??? Ugh. That name conjures up images of smug Crocodile Dundee ("Now, THAT'S a knife!"), shrimp on the barbie, near-nude football fans painted to resemble the Aussie flag and a lot of stumbling men full of Foster's up to their eyeballs. As a name, Forester is much better.

I briefly looked at a Suzuki Grand Vitara, but I knew people would call it my "Grand Viagra."

Get well soon, Dale!

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | March 11, 2010 6:22 AM

My first "real" car (purchased by me alone after my own research) was a Honda Civic. And I suppose I am a civic kind of gal. Owned that car for almost 18 years. Her name was Civetta, which is Italian for "flirt". Current car is a Saturn Ion, but I doubt I'll ever go to space or be a partical physicist. Her name is Ivy the Ion.

Posted by sherrilee | March 11, 2010 6:28 AM

Good Morning All,

Well I don't know what to say about a Honda CRV. I don't have any idea what CRV stands for. I did drive a Ford Ranger before I got the CRV. The Ranger's big problem was that it extended it's range into the ditch when the roads were covered with ice.

I guess with the CRV, which is an SUV, I might be identifying myself as a sporty guy. I'm afraid that isn't true. I don't know what other people think, but it probably isn't, "there goes that sporty guy".

Posted by Jim | March 11, 2010 6:29 AM


The consensus opinion is that CRV means "Compact Recreational Vehicle."

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | March 11, 2010 6:41 AM

our cars are very under the radar. a Yaris (who knows what that means?) and an old RAV4, which we have dubbed "the Goatmobile" because it hauls goats but also hay neither is clean inside or out.
but before i met Steve i had, for one glorious year, a golden Torino with retractable headlights. but then i sold it and went to Europe.
we've had either Hondas or Toyotas since.

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | March 11, 2010 6:43 AM

I drive an Accord. One of its definitions -"To cause to conform or agree; bring into harmony." Raise your hand if you agree I bring harmony to this group. Raise your hand if you'd be willing to conform to that agreement.

Have a great Thursday, kids!

Posted by Donna | March 11, 2010 6:49 AM

Hand is raised. Donna

Posted by cynthia in mahtowa | March 11, 2010 6:51 AM

I drive a Mini but I am not small in mind or body.
Although my maiden name is Little.....took a lot of teasing since I was tall, from 6th grade I towered over all the boys in my grade. They evetually caught up.

Donna, Harmony? after yesterday's comments? I think anyone with a name that begins after H is not raising their hand. Smarty pants. ooops...Does that make me small minded?

Posted by Kate in Eden Prairie | March 11, 2010 7:11 AM

Chevy S-1- pickup (about to be sold, cheap, to no one I know) and Dodge Caravan (about to fall apart after 175,000 care-free miles. About as low manienance as a car can be)
As purebread American dull as cars can get, which all cars I have owned but one have been. Once had a VW bus, utter disaster.
Also, have Trek, Pure Sport, 7000 miles on it, (On which I put on many more miles a year than the S-10.) A complete piece of junk. If you care and do not know, Trek cheaper end bikes in the last year have become junk. Only one dealer in town, only sells Trak, my biking future is looking grim.

Posted by Clyde of Mankato | March 11, 2010 7:11 AM

Major thunder/lightening storm roaring through, headed towars Cities.

Posted by Cly de Booimerre | March 11, 2010 7:16 AM

I am particularly in accord with Cynthia, having owned both a Falcon and an Escort. The Escort is my current car, but it was purchased used, with very little remuneration involved. I don't know if that makes a difference.

There's a Brass Kings song in which Steve Kaul sings about having a Ford Explorer and never going anyplace he hasn't been before. I don't know if there's a recording of it, though - I heard it live once. Is it on the new disc?

Posted by Linda in Saint Paul (West Side) | March 11, 2010 7:18 AM

Thanks, Steve, for the meaning of CRV. Maybe I am sporty or recreational in a small way in my Compact Recreational Vehicle.

I will also raised my hand for Donna and I will be careful to keep all of my fingers extended.

Posted by Jim | March 11, 2010 7:35 AM

I drive a VW (new) Beetle. Hopefully I am not bug-like myself. And although I am a fan of select bugs and related critters, I do not collect them (at least not on purpose). I did briefly *look* a little like my Bug when I was vastly pregnant, though.

What does a Beetle say about me? Probably that I have pretensions of being hip and urbane. Mostly I bought it 'cuz I liked how it looked and because it's really difficult to be crabby too long when you're driving a Beetle (people, especially kids, have a tendency to smile and wave when you drive by). Plus, it has heated seats for winter and a sun roof for summer.

Posted by Anna | March 11, 2010 7:36 AM

We drive a Sienna-which is either a color, or a town in Italy. We love Italian food, so I guess it fits. Our other vehicle is a Ranger. I hate that truck. Its the vehicle on which my husband blew the head gasket getting flowers for me on my birthday. I wouldn't trust it to take it into the wilderness or anywhere real rangers hang out. We used to have a Camry, which has no dictionary meaning I can find. It was great car which we dubbed the fishmobile and which we drove until it had to be junked. My son drives an Outlander. He is neither outlandish or isolated.

Posted by Renee | March 11, 2010 7:40 AM

Just finished Michael Pollans's "A Place of My Own" about building an office in the woods behind his house in NW CT and about all of the abstractions of buildings and architecture. Now mailing it to barbara in Robbinsdale. Speak to her if you want it after that. Love "reading books forward," with comments and name added.
TGitH has not blogged for a few days. I guess he drives either a Yugo-like vehicle or a 3/4 ton diesel pickup, dirty and beat up.
Anna, Beatle is th e onmly car that is bothj a Babe Car and a Chick Car.

Posted by Clyde in Mankato | March 11, 2010 7:45 AM

my car is an accord hybred. it will be my last honda. they did not treat me well when the hybred got 19 miles to the gallon on average. the corporate office was rude mean hearted and lost a future customer. my other family cars are: a xw bug convertable my wife loves. a chevy full size van for road trips with the family of 7 (mini vans leave no room for stuff) a couple of volvo 850s (catchy name) kind of fitting for a scando box, and in the garage i have an old volvo 1800 (that sporty 2 seater from the 60s/70s and a jaguar vanden plas a fancy xj6 (pure sex) i have always wanted one and now i drive it 1000 miles a year for fun. cars have always been fun for me. the vw van was the first car (those 4 engines were a bit of a problem) fiat 2 seater convertable, big old boats for a while riveria and grand marquis, then chrysler mini vans to work in and volvos to make the wheels go round for a long time. you do end up spending so much time there it matters but the difference between the makers seems to be disappearing, they are all exactly the same. little roller skate, mini van, family 4 door, truck. thats it what color do you want.
i think renaming may vbe a good idea. i see hyundia is making big increases. it may as well be smuckers. bad names are ok it seems. where is the intimada when you need it.

Posted by tim | March 11, 2010 7:55 AM

If we are talking about the names we give cars, it would be hard to beat my brother in law. He had a white Dodge Caravan. Called it Vanna White.

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | March 11, 2010 7:58 AM

what is the difference between a babe car and a chick car?
thanks for the heads up on the storm. i am still sending one off to schoola nd she will get the rain slicker in case they let them go outside (they tend to keep them in for fear of melting)
the guy in the hat must drive a dodge mini van that has not been washed in two years. rust and beige is my guess

Posted by tim | March 11, 2010 8:01 AM

My wife's and my first car together was a brown Toyota Corolla. After visiting the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory in San Francisco in the early 80s, we bought a bumper sticker that read, "Save the Chocolate Mousse". Naturally, we decided that our Corolla would henceforth be named 'Bullwinkle'.

After that it was a logical next step to name our next car, a Tercel, Rocky.

We got serious after that, and in 1991 named our new Camry 'Miles' in honor of Miles Davis, who had passed away just before we bought the car.

In 2001 we bought a Solara, which we named 'Ella' in honor of Ella Fitzgerald, who I believe had passed away in the not-too-recent past. She is also one of my all-time favorite singers.

I have no clue what the next car's name will be. They just seem to come to us at the proper time.


Posted by Chris | March 11, 2010 8:05 AM

My two best car repair stories. When we got married, my wife owned a Buick Special; I would take that car back despite this story. We were broke, my senior year at U. It would not back up when the engine was hot and had a couple of other glitches. I called a transmission repair shop in NE Mpls, hoping for a connection to my wife's Eastern Eupropean ancestry. Guy turned out to be Norwegian. But I called, he answered. I said, "I have a 63 Buick Special . . ." At which point he interrupted and said, "$278. 56."
The engine of my VW bus broke down on 35 near North Branch, engine seized. I called a tow truck, arranged a ride all the way home with the family. Next day I called VW in Columbia Heights and said I had a 69 VW bus that broke down on the Hwy with no other details. He said that he bet it had just about 52,000 miles on it, that it had thrown the intake valve on the number 4 piston and the price would be $1194. Only car I ever fell in love with. Too bad it did not have something other than a lawn mower engine in it.

Posted by Clyde in Mankato | March 11, 2010 8:11 AM

Good morning, all! I'm certainly late in visiting today. It will take me a while to wade through the comments, so I'm going to post and run for now!

This brings Marianne Moore to mind. It was assumed that, as a poet, she'd make a good candidate for naming Ford's E-car. The car was Edsel, which was not one of the 6000 names she proposed. Her "Andante con Moto" and "Mongoose Civique" are closer to some of the names we see for cars now. Others not so much.

When I used to drive an "Accord" I liked to imagine the Japanese suits standing around nodding in enthusiastic agreement that consumers would like the name. Nowadays, I drive a "Sienna", the name of which is not significant to me. I also drive a Saturn, the model name of which I do not know. I refer to it instead as "the red car". Such is the sophistication of my language skills. :-)

Posted by elinor | March 11, 2010 8:12 AM


First car was my Grandma's 1967 Plymouth Valiant. No heat, door locks didn't, but built like a tank. Good first car. I may have *thought* *I was Valiant in my teenage years...
Had a Buick Skyhawk-- definitely a chick magnet -- or so I was told. However I did meet my wife just before the engine went out.
Then we bought a Cavalier- newly married, young and carefree... yep.
Now I drive an Escape. From home to work, work to home... and kid things...
Kelly, my wife, has a CRV and loves it. Although it did get her stuck twice this winter-- being compact and recreational was not a help.
And I have the farm truck; a big red Dodge Ram 2500 extended cab full size box 4 x 4 that is useful to intimidate teenagers who maybe aren't where they should be. (Told you I was an ogre the other day...). And, no, I'm not compensating for anything thank-you-very-much.

Have a great day everyone!

Posted by Ben | March 11, 2010 8:14 AM

On the name topic, but not car names-I ran across a great name while getting a new violin bow for our daughter. We bought a Pfretzchner bow. I love that name, but it's hard to remember how to spell. It wouldn't work for a car name.

Posted by Rrenee | March 11, 2010 8:18 AM

this is from a real survey that I heard a few years ago on Click and Clack.
A babe car is a car that makes women attracted to the men who drive them. The survey people did not call them that, but car people do. A chick car is a car women want to drive themselves, again a car people's term, not the survey term. But only the Beetle was in the top 5 cars in each list. I expected the mini to make both lists but it did not.
TGitH's car is either a dull or a gaudy color and either very neat or very messy.

Posted by Clyde | March 11, 2010 8:18 AM

clyde, if you are interested i have a fistful of bicycles in my ebay store.(i started it to give my kids something to do but its my baby now) i think there are a couple of decent ones for cheap.
chris i like the naming methodology you use and the names you come up with.

Posted by tim | March 11, 2010 8:19 AM

As someone with a linguistircs degree, I keep trying to decide how a car got name Enclave and what meaning I am supposed to gather from it. It seems to me on the order of the Intimida, and is about that big. But since about 1.8% of the population knows what an Enclave is, I guess they chose it for the name.

Posted by Cly de Enclaved | March 11, 2010 8:24 AM

ha ha, dale, you made me laugh out loud again--thanks!

i too drive a saturn ion....just a car to get me where i want to go...

had to laugh at steve's reported THREE YEARS of study before buying a car! I am clearly on the opposite end of that spectrum. I had had to bring my previous car in for repairs, it turned out the repairs would cost more than the car was worth, so (being in a very busy phase of my life) i said to the nearest salesperson, "okay, what do you have on the lot today that is a decent car?" 15 minutes later i bought this 2003 Ion.

have never named a car myself, i guess cuz i've never had a car with enough personality to justify it. if my dreams come true someday, i'll have either a CRV or a small but powerful pickup truck, maybe i'll name that!

Posted by Kay H in Utah | March 11, 2010 8:25 AM

So, Pengra, fess up. What do you drive? I guess a motorcycle for one.
Boy do we have no business, which gives me way too much time to blog!!
tim--because of my back I have been riding what are called flat-foot bikes, or, incorreclty, semi-recombants (which is something else). It has the pedals set about 9 inches forward, which means you can sit on it with your feet on the ground. For me it means my back is in a better oreintation. Trek's version has some vectors working in it which cause problems. I have been told that they have pulled it. But three bike repair persons have told me that Trek bikes at less than $600 or so are now made very cheaply. Used to be made by Giant in China; now made somewhere else.
But my body is telling me that my riding careere is going to be much curtailed, if not over. I am going to put $120 in htis bike and see how outdoor riding goes.
I agree that Chri's auto nomenclature is nice. My wife names our cars but she never really uses the names.

Posted by Cly de nom de carte | March 11, 2010 8:37 AM

car songs,

Don Walser, Down at The Sky-View Drive-in," Hot Rod Mercury"

David Lindley+Haninser , Live In Tokro "Mercury Blues"

Trana Rogne

Posted by trana Rogne | March 11, 2010 8:38 AM

I cannot speak to the "babe car" factor - I guess I will admit to the "chick car" thing, since I fit that demographic.

I will, say, however, the Beetle is definitely a preschooler Daughter's preschool I was well known as "the mom with the Slug Bug."

Posted by Anna | March 11, 2010 9:59 AM

No business at all this week. Scarry.
Anyway. Anna, VW has a series of ads out which acknowledge the slug bug thing. I believe this is the first time they have ever done so.

Posted by Cly sans employemente | March 11, 2010 10:19 AM

Thanks for Dave B's Take Five!

Posted by LGM | March 11, 2010 10:21 AM

Oh wow, Trana Rogne - I've always loved volvos... plugged in the link and saw that 65 Volvo, just like an old boyfriend's only his was white.

I always mean to name cars and then never do. The Prius (Latin for earlier, before, first...) fits me since I always like being a "be different". Before that was my favorite, a small '94 Saturn wagon cleverly dubbed the SW-1. But I still miss the VW vans, and my 72 VW Beetle, bright yellow to show up in the San Francisco fog.

When growing up we had a 1953 Chevy that was ironically called the Blue Dart, but it was sturdy enough to pull the 16 foot trailer. When I learned to drive I was only allowed behind the wheel of the Tan Bomb, a 1950 Plymouth that sort of putted around town.

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | March 11, 2010 10:53 AM

The Dynaflow song got me to thinking of the song by Gomez, "Airstream Driver" (a song they play on 89.3). Also the Richard Shindell tune "Transit" about the nun by the side of the road fixing her van. Not that there's any more time today for car-related tunes...

Posted by Anna | March 11, 2010 12:24 PM

Generally I've tried for car names that reflect the car...

But my current vehicle - which is not a commuter - is def. named (and what) I want to be.

I need to block out some time and really read the comments here, they're fantastic.

Posted by Julia Schrenkler, MPR | March 11, 2010 3:05 PM

These surely are wonderful testimonials. All I can think about now is how I wish I had a baby chick car like Anna's.

Kate and Jim - ha ha! I had that coming. I blame being cheeky on an entire week of rain with no outside recess for the kiddies.

Dale - you sound pretty tough. Hope you don't feel that bad!

Posted by Donna | March 11, 2010 7:32 PM

Am I even relevant, posting the second day out?

Anyway, a friend of mine drove an old Toyota for many years. She called it "Tuna", I think becasue it WAS like riding in a tin can.

My first car was a royal blue Datsun B210. Loved that car. Called it "Old Blue" (bought it used), and by the time it had been passed down through the family, it deserved the name (Old Blue, you good car, you!)

I inherited my grandmother's avocado 1971 Buick Skylark, and that was a appropo name, 'cause when I drove that car, I really FLEW (eight cylinders).

Now I drive a (very) old Lumina. I am neither a luminary or terribly clear-sighted, but it's clear it was a very good choice.

Dale, hope you're feeling better soon.

Posted by audrey in mpls. | March 12, 2010 1:24 PM

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