Car names — dumb, funny and dangerous

“Watch out, bro! We’re being chased by an Inferno!”

I’m often asked what it’s like to be a writer — how I spend my days, how I experience the world. And so I will be sharing occasional essays from the front lines of my writing life. Enjoy!

So here we are, Hubby Joe and I merrily driving along Pennsylvania Rt. 322, going at a pleasant 60 mph when — gimme a break! — an RV darts in front of us at a blazing 15 mph. We curse, brake.

“Well that was dumb,” I say, though not about the driver. I’m thinking about the dumb ad execs who chose the name of this 40-foot monster whose belly holds 60 gallons of highly flammable liquid. The name? The Inferno.

Inferno? What’s with these people? Were they devotees of quality films like “Fast and Furious” or “Smokey and the Bandit”?

This got me thinking about an article my father once wrote about ad campaigns gone wrong. Here’s what I remember:

A group of execs are sitting around, trying to think up an appealing name for their client’s laundry detergent. Hours go by and finally, they find it: Dreck. Pats on the back. Yes, Dreck!

And then they got lucky.

By providence, a Jewish janitor happens to be sweeping the office. “No, no, no,” he says. “You can’t name it Dreck. Dreck means ‘shit’ in Yiddish.”

Clearly the janitor had a point. Washing clothes in poop was not a great selling point. Thus, you won’t find Dreck in your supermarket.

Ah, but you will find an Inferno on the road. Which made me wonder what other vehicles past and present have dumb names. As Joe drives, I do a quick Internet search on my phone and wind up at And I think, I should become an ad exec. I’d get paid big bucks for poor word choice.


How safe would you feel driving an Avalanche, Cyclone or Tornado? (Anyone driving an Earthquake? Oh, that’s right. The vehicle is only sold in California.)

Would you want to be tailgated by a Rampage, Nitro, Vanquish, Viper or Fury? Or a car with psychological problems, like the Caprice or Esteem?

Would you want to follow a fleet of wholly inappropriate vehicles: the Prelude, Naked (no joke!), Probe and Impreza (“impregnate” in English). Good Lord! Where’s a Genesis when you need one?

Personally, I’d rather follow a Reliant, Valiant, or the darling Lady
 Fairlane, even a Honey Bee. And were I traveling with a teenager, I’d much prefer the Focus and Graduate.

But instead, Joe and I will follow the Inferno. At a safe distance, of course.


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