What’s in a name?

Posted on April 10, 2013

I’m obsessed with names. Ask anyone I know. One of the things I like most about being a writer is the chance to name people all the time. And towns. And entire kingdoms. (For the record, naming towns and entire Kingdoms is not as easy at it seems.)

One of my favourite perennial stories (as in one that I seem to get asked to write every year) is the one about the baby names. Last year’s was a cracker (actually, any time I get to speak to Mark McCrindle about names is a good day).

So it will come as no surprise to you that I take the names of things very seriously. Which is why The Builder and I have been having some highly amusing conversations about the Ford Kuga recently. As I said on Twitter last night, as a busy soccer mum you could not pay me enough to drive a car with a name that is pronounced ‘cougar’.

The Builder, of course, thinks my aversion is hilarious. He threatens to buy me one on a regular basis.

“You’d drive it if I brought one home,” he said. And it must be said that it’s quite a nice looking vehicle with many enviable features.

“Maybe,” I said, after a pause, thinking of the joy of a new car, “but I’d remove that little name-plate thing and tell you vandals had done it.”

He laughed. “I’d find it and get it made into one of those identity necklaces for you.”

We crack ourselves, up, we do. But the fact remains.

What were they thinking when they named that car?

Do names fascinate you in the same way they fascinate me? Any examples of major clangers you’d like to share?

[image: Yes, I know it’s Pikachu, which has nothing to do with this post, but don’t you think he looks kind of like an embarrassed cougar … no?]


  1. Becci

    I feel slightly qualified to comment on difficult/uncomfortable names – I spent my school years and more amusing many with the name Becci Robyn Bird. So of course I didn’t mind taking my husband’s name – Swan.

  2. Michelle Haines Thomas

    Aah, a fellow name addict! Just this morning I was quite seriously deciding what names I would give more children if I had them (even though further conception opportunities have been ‘cut off’, if you know what I mean). I think of a name a day for new pets I will never own, new characters in stories I will never write, new companies I will never start and pass the time in traffic thinking of new car names. Honestly, someone out there should hire me because they are terrific names, I tell you. If I ever hear of a Lamborghini Tornado or a Porsche Veloz I will know they read this blog. And I’ve got my 11-year-old hooked on names too. Fun for all the family.

    • Becci

      I’ve always wanted to call a bull terrier I may own one day Slumpy Fulton. Don’t know why, just sounded good.

    • allison tait

      Hmmm. Maybe we can set up a new company Michelle???

  3. At Number 32

    I think that’s where Mazda have done really well…..sicking with the numbers. Easy!
    I remember teaching a little asian girl at a long day care once. ‘Candida’, honestly! Did they not look up the meaning before naming her. I’ll never forget her!

  4. Selby

    Yep I couldn’t go a Kuga car! I’m a names person & yes I decided against several cars when we chose ours because of bad tasting names 🙂

  5. therhythmmethod

    I think some women would like that reference. Not me, but some.
    Volvo sensibly names its cars by a system of letters and numbers – the bigger the number, the larger the car. It’s very Dewey in my opinion, but it hasn’t stopped Mr6 remarking that our Volvo is the most “mumfortable” car we’ve ever driven. I refer to it as The Vulva … it seems cars and sexual references have an undeniable history.

  6. Emily

    Pajero apparently means ‘wanker’ in Spanish. Something Mitsubishi only discovered after launching an ad campaign in Spanish-speaking countries. Wankers.

    I’m with you. I couldn’t consider a car named ‘Kuga’. YEUCH.

  7. Maxabella

    An embarrassed cougar? You’re reaching a little there, but I’ll give you that it’s a very nice shot.

    Seriously, a dumb car name like that has GOT to affect sales. x

  8. stonefruit season

    A girl I once worked with used to take baby pics at the hospital for the local paper. She was often asked what she thought of a made-up name and had to help the people think up a way to spell the name! Terrible!

    A good one I saw years ago was Crispin Rice. This was a real name! There are others, but probably not achieving a PG rating!

  9. Mrs Catch

    On a road trip last year, the names of so many little towns were absolute crackers. I loved them. My favourite? Dunadoo – such a nice place too!

    • Becci

      Love Dunedoo (spelling is with an ‘e’), we lived in nearby Coolah – also a very significant name. Unfortunately the town wasn’t that cool, quaint but not cool.

  10. Sam-O

    I prefer my cars to have a model number not a name. I think pretty much all of them are appalling!

    As far as baby names go, don’t get me started. I always test names, out loud, with the other names and the initials. Why don’t people do this? There’s 9 months to decide.

  11. Claire Hewitt

    From my marketing studies there are stacks of great clangers with names, I posted some old classics a gazillion blogs ago, they are not new ones though. I also love names,and I tell you I really do not like YoUnEek names. They are just not for me. And Kuga, that is a YoUnEek one.

    It was Ford that did the Pinto in Brazil – Pinto means Small Penis – that marketing strategy was not very successful. Another one I think was the Seca or something (correct me someone) that means Don’t Go in another language – not ideal for your new car! See, names are very very important.

  12. Ros

    My eldest is called Saul, which causes utter bafflement everywhere we go. Despite loving the name ( a legacy of a uni crush) I constantly wish we called him Frank. We’ve had to train him to say “rhymes with Paul” when he introduces himself. 🙂

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