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Nov 8, 2004
This week's theme
What does that car name mean?

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with Anu Garg

The very first car I owned was a black hatchback Volkswagen Scirocco. Before I plonked down my hard-earned graduate-school allowance for this secondhand (euphemistically also called pre-owned or pre-loved) automobile, I made sure its air-conditioning was A-OK. With a name like Scirocco (hot, dry wind), I felt I just had to.

How do automakers come up with names for their cars? Some christen their models with feminine sounding names (Ford Festiva, Chevrolet Lumina), probably following the traditional way of naming boats, while others go for macho names (Mitsubishi Galant, Nissan Armada).

Some prefer animal names, as a way of ascribing those qualities to their cars (Mercury Cougar, Dodge Viper, Ford Bronco). Others name their cars after places (Dodge Daytona, Chevrolet Corsica, GMC Yukon). Still others take the easy way out and use what appears to be a jumble of letters and numbers though these often indicate engine capacity or some such characteristics.

Here are some interesting auto tidbits:

  • Camry is an anagram of "My car".
  • "A TOYOTA" is a palindrome, and forms a mirror image.
  • Chevrolet named a car Nova. In Spanish "No va" means "It doesn't go."
  • Then there was the unreliable Yugo which earned the nickname "You no go."
  • Saab is an acronym for Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget (Swedish Aircraft Company Ltd); BMW is Bayerische Motoren-Werke (Bavarian Motor Works).
Ever wondered what your car's name means? This week we explain meanings of five auto names (Prelude is a car from Honda).


Pronunciation RealAudio

prelude (PREL-yood, PRAYL-, PRAY-lood, PREE-) noun

1. An introductory event, performance, or action preceding something more important.

2. A musical section, overture, etc. serving as introduction to the main composition, opera, play, etc.

verb tr., intr.

To serve as an introduction to something.

[From Medieval Latin praeludium, from Latin praeludere (to play beforehand), from prae- (pre-) + ludere (to play). Ultimately from Indo-European root leid- (to play) that is also the ancestor of words such as allude, collude, delude, elude, illusion, and ludicrous.]

See more usage examples of prelude in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

"While the main vascular congress will begin on November 4, a continuing medical education programme aimed at post-graduate students and junior doctors will be held on November 3 as a prelude to the conference."
Kalam to Open 11th Vascular Conference; The Times of India (New Delhi); Nov 3, 2004.

"Some interpreted his (Rudy Giuliani's) campaign for the Senate (forestalled by cancer and marital woes) as the prelude to a push for the presidency itself."
Clinton and Giuliani Outshine the Candidates; Montreal Gazette (Canada); Oct 27, 2004.


Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven. -Rabindranath Tagore, poet, philosopher, author, songwriter, painter, educator, composer, Nobel laureate (1861-1941)

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