What were they thinking?

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Alex Baumans writes:

Perhaps no news to you, but I just discovered that the new Range Rover model is called the Velar. I wonder if the Uvular will be next.

To be followed by the Range Rover Pharyngeal and the Range Rover Glottal. (Or maybe a hybrid version called the Range Rover Labiovelar?)

And Jeep could fight back with the Jeep Ergative and the Jeep Grand Optative…



  1. ===Dan said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 8:46 am

    Somebody must have found the name palatable.

  2. charles antaki said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 8:47 am

    Might have been tongue-in-cheek.

  3. Adrian Morgan said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 9:04 am

    Mark: As a token of appreciation to you and the LL team, here is my phonetic motorbike impression. It's a simultaneous uvular trill and interdental fricative [ʀ͜ð], which is one of the most enjoyable phones to produce on any occasion.

    (Distribute and re-use freely. I'm calling this recording public domain.)

  4. Victor Mair said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 9:20 am

    Perhaps it's Spanish:


  5. Ben Zimmer said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 9:21 am

    According to The Telegraph, Velar is a resurrection of a name used for pre-production Range Rovers back in the late '60s. Since the Rover Company was keeping the project secret, they apparently chose Velar as a code name because it's based on the Latin verb velare, meaning "to hide." (Velum comes from the Latin word for "veil," so there's an etymological connection to the place of articulation.)

  6. chips mackinolty said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 9:40 am

    The simple answer to the question "What were they thinking?", is that they weren't.
    Advertisers/image makers and the rest of the corporate spinners look first to see if someone else has registered a word, and in what context, and then drive ahead, as it were.

    Compare with the launch by General Motors, from memory, of the "Nova" line of automobiles in South America. Sales were catastrophically abysmal because of the meaning in Spanish of "no va", not a great name for a car.
    Likewise the vineyard in Victoria, Australia, with the name "Goona Warra", allegedly an Aboriginal word for "swan". Perhaps that may be true as a single, slightly differently spelt word. But "Goona" is close to being a pan-Aboriginal language term for shit; and the suffix in many languages means crazy or scary.
    The irony of naming a car after a word that is largely used by linguists in English; and in Spanish as Ben Zimmer notes, refers to things veiled or hidden, is priceless. So Range Rover is revealing the hidden? A long bow.

  7. ===Dan said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 9:50 am

    Snopes disputes that "No va" story. http://www.snopes.com/business/misxlate/nova.asp

  8. Andreas Johansson said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 9:58 am

    Being a Nissan sales rep must've required a stiff upper lip when they introduced the Fitta in Sweden – in Swedish the word is a decidely vulgar one for female genitalia.

    Velar may not be the best name in Sweden either – you can read it as the verb "is indecisive".

  9. Michael Cluff said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 10:21 am

    How does it handle glottal stops?

  10. John said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 10:30 am

    They weren't linguists. They probably liked the sound of the name…possibly accenting the second syllable. I didn't immediately make the connection with phonology either. Now, I do wonder what the team was thinking when they came up with the name "Probe' for Ford.

  11. Norval Smith said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 10:58 am

    At least there's no danger of the next model being called the "epiglottal". Nor of it being called "Norval". That name has been trademarked, at least twice.
    It's an antidepressant (http://www.medicatione.com/?c=drug&s=norval&ingredient=mianserin%20hydrochloride);
    and a pipeline valve (http://www.northvalekorting.co.uk/sectors/pharmaceutical/)
    Pharmaceutical companies appear to like my name.

  12. Peter Taylor said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 11:43 am

    @chips mackinolty, in Spanish the two primary meanings are to keep an eye on something (including doing sentry duty, caring for a sick person, and protecting someone's interests) and to suffer insomnia. I presume they won't be marketing it as a vehicle for insomniacs.

  13. Robert Davis said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 12:22 pm

    Or from many years back in México: FORD- Fabricación Ordinaria, Reparación Diaria (Mediocre Manufacturing, Daily Repair

  14. Gregory Kusnick said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 12:43 pm

    My first thought, as a non-linguist, was that velar probably had something to do with flying or sailing. And indeed, on opening my copy of C.T. Onions' Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, the first definition given is "(archit.) resembling a sail".

    So if the folks at Range Rover were thinking anything, it was probably that.

  15. Ruth said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 12:47 pm

    What about Rolls Royce range Silver Mist which did not go down too well in Germany where Mist means manure.

  16. Jeff Lidz said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 12:59 pm

    I just hope they stay away from labio-dental.

  17. Viseguy said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 3:25 pm

    Must have used a cut-rate name consultant. For a bit more money, they could have got Velaro or Velara.

  18. Abbas said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 3:59 pm

    Mitsubishi Pajero was famously renamed in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries because it meant, literally, Mitsubishi Wanker:
    I have heard some Spanish videos about Range Rover Velar. As expected, about halve of them selected to stress the e instead of the a. Vélar sounds more foreign and cool.

  19. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 4:06 pm

    @John: Yes, the name is stressed on the second syllable:
    YT video

  20. Jim Breen said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 4:10 pm

    Some years back Mitsubishi produced a small car called a Dingo. They never tried to export it to Australia.

    Is there any truth in the story that Lexus came from Luxury EXport to the US?

  21. Andrew Usher said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 6:47 pm

    Of course, it should still have first-syllable stress, no matter its origin; someone at some point must have deliberately changed it for the sake of the sound. I suppose they have the right to do that, as it's not being used as an ordinary English word.

    Adrian Morgan:
    Thanks for providing that. I can do a similar engine impression, though using an alveolar trill, but you've gotten me to realise that there is a sort of 'simultaneous interdental fricative' that distinguishes it from the other alveolar trill sounds I use.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo.com

  22. Jerry Friedman said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 9:37 pm

    Ach, maybe a gang of gowks, after going through a keg, called it Velar for kicks.

    ===Dan: Just to confirm Snopes, I've asked Spanish speakers, and seen others ask, and no Spanish speaker has seen anything funny about "Nova" as a car name, even when "no va" was pointed out to them.

  23. maidhc said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 10:39 pm

    Wasn't there a recent discussion where someone pointed out that Volvo is Latin for "I turn over"?

  24. Jim Breen said,

    September 16, 2017 @ 10:47 pm

    "Volvo" does indeed come from the Latin "volvere". The car firm was an offshoot of SKF, a ball-bearing manufacturer, so it's understandable. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volvo#Early_years_and_international_expansion

    Jim (a Volvo owner/driver since 1979)

  25. Smut Clyde said,

    September 17, 2017 @ 4:28 am

    If I were the owner of a Toyota Ipsum I would be first in the queue for a "Lorem" numberplate.

  26. David Morris said,

    September 17, 2017 @ 5:06 am

    Chips: South Australia has a winery area named Coonawarra. (And let's not get started on Coon cheese.)

  27. L'Homme Armé said,

    September 17, 2017 @ 8:48 am

    So they're bringing back the "K-car"?

  28. Rodger C said,

    September 17, 2017 @ 11:39 am

    South Australia has a winery area named Coonawarra. (And let's not get started on Coon cheese.)

    And then there's this Louisiana product. (For those elsewhere in the world, this is a rude nickname for Cajuns, now of course appropriated.)


  29. Steven Marzuola said,

    September 17, 2017 @ 2:38 pm

    To chips: I also confirm the falsehood of the "Nova" legend. It does contain a moral, that product names should be investigated. But the name didn't hurt. I grew up in Venezuela and the car sold well there. It was also a hit in Mexico.

    Several things to keep in mind. One, in the 1960's through the 1980's, most car markets in Latin America were very limited. Unlike the United States where a consumer can pick from among about 100 different car models, those countries offered very limited selections. In Venezuela during that span, for example, the government would invite manufacturers to bid on cars. For example, they would say, what car will you offer with a maximum 2000 cc engine weighing at least XX kilograms? Volkswagen, GM, Fiat, and maybe one more would submit bids and the government might pick two. Same for larger US-style sedans. So the Nova would not have much competition.

    Second, the market in those countries is not like the USA, where you often find the exact model and color on a dealer's lot somewhere in your area. A car has to be ordered, and it can take months. Again, this makes impulse decisions based on something as unimportant as a name less likely.

    Cars are also much more expensive, compared to the average annual income. It's probably still true that many vehicles are purchased by companies and government agencies, or by other users who don't care about things like names. Definitely not the US car market, which depends on influencing trendy young men or prestigious car magazines.

    Finally, many (I can't say "most") Spanish speakers are familiar with the term "nova", meaning an exploding star. It's pronounced with an emphasis on the first syllable. It's definitely not the same as "no va" in which the two syllables are pronounced almost the same, or in some contexts with an accent on the "va".

  30. Joseph F Foster said,

    September 18, 2017 @ 6:41 am

    When Land Rover comes out with the Glottal, will the brakes be known as Glottal stops?

  31. Joyce Melton said,

    September 18, 2017 @ 8:13 am

    There was the American Motors Matador. In English, we use this word to mean bullfighter but in Spanish, it actually means KIller; the bullfighter who actually kills the bull. The other Toreadores have other names for the jobs they do in the ring, like Picador who is the guy who sticks darts in the bull to annoy him.

  32. Anthony said,

    September 18, 2017 @ 9:12 pm

    Will these be sold through normal channels, or must one go to a Velar dealer?

  33. dainichi said,

    September 20, 2017 @ 7:17 pm

    I would strongly assume that most Spanish speakers understand that nova is a Latin version of their own nueva. Many (in particular the unstressed) versions of the morpheme in Spanish also have the form "nova", like in "supernova","renovar", etc.

    There's also the story about how "colgate" means "hang yourself" in Argentine Spanish (cuélgate in Standard), but not sure how much that's something that Argentinians actually think about.

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