Monday, 16 February 2015

Stupidity in Naming: Chevy Bolt and Volt

Chevrolet makes a hybrid engine car--it uses batteries for power when it can and switches to gasoline when it can't--called the Chevy Volt. Chevrolet has just announced that it will produce an all-electric drive car called the Chevy Bolt. It should be on sale in 2017.

Now, the names of these two cars are not particularly distinguished, and they sound similar enough to the ears of English speakers to be the source of numerous errors in communication. However, what raises the naming decision to the level of lunacy is that the letters B and V are not distinguishable in some other languages, such as Spanish.
The most important thing to remember about pronouncing the Spanish b and v is that in standard Spanish they are pronounced exactly alike. Although English makes a clear distinction in how the two letters are pronounced, Spanish does not. The sound of the English "v" such as in the word "victory" does not exist in standard Spanish.
So, to many Spanish speakers, the Bolt and the Volt have the same name.

Do the General Motors managers responsible for naming not know that "Spanish is, by far, the most spoken non-English language in the U.S."? They should since "A record 37.6 million persons ages 5 years and older speak Spanish at home, according to an analysis of the 2011 American Community Survey by the Pew Research Center." Or did they not consider that 37.6% of Americans wouldn't be able to distinguish between the names of two of their cars?

General Motors escapes from the shame of having named a car "No go" in Spanish (a myth told about the Chevy Nova). However, this naming decision is at least as stupid as that one would have been.

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