Shouty Capitals

SEAT - image courtest of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/Classic_Seat_1400._Sign.jpg

Car makers may have kicked off a trend that is widely echoed on social media. Have you noticed that whenever someone wants to say something and make sure of being noticed, they do it in loud and SHOUTY CAPITALS?

It’s perfectly understandable that car brands such as BMW and SEAT prefer to see themselves in capital letters. Both have their origins in initials. BMW derives from Bayerische Motoren Werke, which translates as Bavarian Motor Works. SEAT stands for Sociedad Espanola de Automoviles de Turismo, or Spanish Touring Car Company if you say it in English.

Then there is Fiat, which also derives from initials. It was originally Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, meaning Italian Automobile Factory of Turin, but the capitals have long since melted comfortably into a less strident name in normal use.

Alfa Romeo has its roots in another set of initials. ALFA stood for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, or Automobile Factory of Lombardy. The Romeo bit was added way back in 1920, taking the name of the entrepreneur who by then owned the company, and the initials disappeared at the same time.

MG, of course, was originally a contraction of Morris Garages. That’s perfectly understandable, as it would look pretty odd as a brand name with just the first letter in upper case. But how about MINI, as parent company BMW insists on calling it? Those capitals are merely an affectation to differentiate new 21st century MINI from the old original 20th century British-owned Mini.

Plus, by capitalising the name, it jumps out at you in any piece of text. That is the key point in why the use of capitals in car names has become such a popular ploy adopted by car manufacturers. They’re keen to catch your eye with their products.

If it’s not the whole car that is shouted out, then at least a part of it may be, such as the engine or transmission. For example: Mercedes’ B-Class 4MATIC AMG Line, Honda’s Civic i-DTEC, Vauxhall’s Astra ecoFLEX, and Seat’s Leon X-PERIENCE.

There is another odd habit affected by the motor industry in its car names. It’s the very opposite of capitals. Why on earth does Mercedes insist on all lower-case for the car brand of smart? Written correctly, its car range comprises the smart fortwo and smart forfour. But of course for reasons of clarity, most publications ignore that and make smart Smart.

Likewise all those strident capitals. Calm down, motor industry, and stop SHOUTING AT US!

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Sue Baker is a seasoned motoring journalist with a love of all things automotive.