Naming a product is hard. Like, mind-boggling difficult. Every time I’m challenged to write copy or even come up with a provocative title for a post — well, there’s a lot of trial and error, and it definitely is a head scratcher.
So, I’m a bit in awe of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Marianne Moore, a wordsmith if there ever was one. According to my one of my favorite blogs, Lists of Note — sister blog to Letters of Note, which is always worthy of a read — Marianne was tasked with naming a new series of cars for the Ford Motor Company in 1955. According to the letter that accompanied this request:
We should like this name to be more than a label. Specifically, we should like it to have a compelling quality in itself and by itself. To convey, through association or other conjuration, some visceral feeling of elegance, fleetness, advanced features and design. A name, in short, that flashes a dramatically desirable picture in people’s minds.
That seems pretty open, right? So Marianne went nuts, coming up with names like “Mongoose Civique” and “Utopian Turtletop.” (Hey, I’d drive it.) Ford scrapped her suggestions and named the car the relatively questionable “Edsel.” (What?) No one bought it and it was one of the most spectacular flops in automobile history.
Here’s Marianne’s list in its entirety. What’s your favorite?
- The Ford Silver Sword
- Hurricane Hirundo (swallow)
- Hurricane Aquila (eagle)
- Hurricane Accipter (hawk)
- The Impeccable
- The Resilient Bullet
- Intelligent Bullet
- Bullet Cloisoné
- Bullet Lavolta
- The Intelligent Whale
- The Ford Fabergé (That there is also a perfume Fabergé seems to me to do no harm, for here allusion is to the original silversmith)
- The Arc-en-Ciel (the rainbow)
- Mongoose Civique
- Regna Racer (couronne a couronne) sovereign to sovereign
- Fée Rapide (Aerofee, Aero Faire, Fee Aiglette, Magi-faire) Comme Il Faire
- Tonnere Alifère (winged thunder)
- Aliforme Alifère (wing-slender a-wing)
- Turbotorc (used as an adjective by Plymouth)
- Thunderbird Allié (Cousin Thunderbird)
- Thunder Crester
- Dearborn Diamanté
- Taper Racer
- Varsity Stroke
- Tir á l’arc (bull’s eye)
- Cresta Lark
- Triskelion (three legs running)
- Pluma Piluma (hairfine, feather-foot)
- Adante con Moto (description of a good motor?)
- Turcotinga (turqoise cotinga—the cotinga being a South-American finch or sparrow) solid indigo.
- Utopian Turtletop
And if these seem experimental, think of all the aspirational car model names that have graced your television screen: Rav, Civic, Prizm, Quest, Avalon, Xterra, Yukon, Intrepid, Odyssey…
Find more history at Lists of Note.