Sunday, 26 January 2014

Car - Boring Thing, Interesting Word

A Ferrari F12 Berlinetta (apparently), but I don't think it's real
(this photo and bottom one by Leap Kye)


Noun. Late Middle English.
[Anglo-Norman, Old Northern French carre from Proto-Romance variant of Latin carrum neuter, carrus masculine,
from Celtic base represented by Old & modern Irish carr, Welsh car.]

1 generally. A wheeled conveyance, a carriage. Without specification of type now rare. LME

2 A sledge, a sleigh. Long obsolete except Scottish & Canadian dialect. LME

3 A chariot, especially of war, triumph, or pageantry. literary. L16

4(a) The passenger compartment of a balloon, airship, cableway, etc. L18

4(b) The cage of a lift. Chiefly US. L19

5(a) A railway carriage or van; a tramway vehicle. Chiefly N.American except as 2nd element of combination. E19

5(b) As many or as much as a railway car will hold; a carload. N.American. M19

6 A usually four-wheeled motorized vehicle for use on roads, able to carry a small number of people;
an automobile. L19

I don't like cars and I don't like driving. If I could move somewhere where I never had to drive a car again in my entire life, I would be quite happy. Yes, being able to drive is useful. Yes, some cars are more comfortable, more stylish, better designed, etc, than others. But really, guys, what's the thrill? Day to day driving is positively one of the most soul-suckingly, mind-meltingly dull activities that anyone can engage is. And I'm talking about driving cars here (or automobiles, if you're American) - I'm sure chariot driving is an absolute blast. But cars? Please, if you're a motorhead, educate, enlighten and elucidate me on why anyone with an IQ above 50 would want to sit in a car for more than an hour at a time, eyes glazed, mouth ajar, with a bland grey motorway shuttling away beneath them, regardless of what type of car you're in. Tell me. I want to know.
Now the Mini I rather like - it's just a shame you have to be about 5ft 5in to drive one
(image by Dave 7)
Oh, except, y'know, the etymology of car - strap yourselves in, as this is where it gets really exciting. If you want to follow it all the way back, its roots are ancient, perhaps back to the Gaulish karros, adopted into Latin as carrum meaning a two-wheeled Celtic war chariot. Considering what we think of as a car is such a modern innovation (invented circa 1886), the word's ancient roots seem rather surprising, especially when compared with the thoroughly modern automobile, a word coined in the late 19th century and, as much as speakers of British English tend to dislike it, quite a sensible word, as its construction of auto and mobile (literally meaning 'self-propelling') differentiates it from vehicles of, say, the horse-drawn variety. Wow! Did I tell you it was going to be exciting or what? That's the beauty of the English language - it can turn a thoroughly boring subject (cars) into a dashingly scintillating one (cars). 

Are you a motorhead, "automotive enthusiast" or (shudders) watcher of Top Gear?

Have a brake and jam your most enginious comments into the gear-box below.


  1. Call me captious, but cars are immeasurably more interesting than, say, fields.

    "Bieber arrested in field" just isn't a headline, not even in the Daily Mail.

    I'm afraid I can't use you to calibrate my sense of 'interesting' anymore ed.


    1. There isn't a person in the world who wouldn't read an article with the headline "Bieber Arrested in Field". It just raises so many questions: What was he doing in the field? Who was he with? Did the field consent? Was it over 16 acres? And the opportunities for punnery:

      "Bieber Arrested in Field - Found With Grass - Farmer Takes a Fence and Says 'How Dairy!'"

      But Bieber arrested in car?

      "He was speeding."


    2. Darn it!!

      I am CONVINCED that cars (which move, by the way) are more interesting than fields, with the same conviction that I am convinced I can never match the linguosity with which you can state otherwise.

      So I'm going to need your help to state my case (although I suspect Angry Nerd will need neither) :

      Carestral - Pertaining to cars or open roads; driving or living in cars.

      Cars are magical. Cars are for dreaming, for meditation, for relaxing, an escape from the constant pressure of the antiquated fields, the incessant chatter of sentiment and bloggers. Cars bring us closer to nature, to the natural world (if there's any left, what with all the roads), and to ourselves; cars are where we can disconnect and reconnect simultaneously (if they have Bluetooth); putting just a little bit of distance between us and a world that constantly demands our attention (was that a child I just hit, or a pothole?) - Cars are magical.

      -clueless, with a few words borrowed from edward on an arguably less-interesting subject.

    3. While the eloquence with which you've stated your case is most impressive, I'm afraid the word you've coined for the job is not up to the task, "carestral" sadly sounding more like the phenomenon of rising obesity in Japan brought about through too much cuddling.

  2. It is clear to see by your comments that you are not a car person....
    I suspect you didn't as a late teenager or in your early twenties, save to buy your own car, get excited about it, maybe get bigger alloys with low profile tyres?
    Or even give your car a name? This is the start of a car becoming more than a car, it becomes a friend, someone, not something you rely on, but a personality develops, memories are made.
    I've had a few cars, I won't go into the details but I want you to know the names of my friends that have passed.
    Percy Sledge ( Renault )
    Moscow Flyer (Rover)
    Ruby Walsh (BMW)
    And currently still in service my van Trigger ( iveco )


    1. I certainly did save and buy my first car. It was a Mazda 323, with the pop-up headlights and capable of a cool 0-60 in about three minutes. And no - I did not buy it alloys, low profile tyres or anything else as similarly inane. And no, I did not name it - although in fairness I didn't have it that long before my Mum crashed it.

      Maybe I've just never moved on ...

  3. I was raised in a family with car-loving men. My brother's even made his career out of it (which is quite useful. It has saved us a lot of time and money to have an in-house mechanic). My interest for cars is limited to: "oh this one's cute", I'm afraid. Not a lot of cars are cute. So there's that. Yeah.

    It's one of my dad and brother's great frustrations now that we're (read: they're) looking for a car for me. My conditions? It has to start in any type of weather, it has to be reliable, and it has to look not totally awful. What do I care about chrome thingiemabobs, 8l whatsammicallits and 50.000km ladidadis? Get in, start, first, go.

    1. You and me are of the same ilk, Bibi. My requirements in a car: reliable, comfortable, not too expensive to buy, run or maintain, spacious enough for the family. Booya!

  4. Woah woah woah woah! I'm sorry Ed, I agree with you on most things but not today.
    Saying cars are boring because you're stuck in traffic or sitting behind some smoke belching lorry on a damp motorway is like saying music is rubbish, it's just some blonde teenager moaning about something as she swings from a crane smashing into things. Or restaurants are boring, it's just French fries and sachets of ketchup listening to screaming kids while you're sat opposite a freshly soiled tramp.
    Cars are endlessly fascinating. Their shape, design, engineering, interior smell, noise...
    The sound a supercharged Mercedes V8 makes as it hits the redline and changes gear physically makes my eyes water with pure joy. And hearing a Lexus Lfa V10 produce an epic liquid howl gives me tingles now banned in 37 countries.
    How can you not appreciate the pure aesthetic beauty of a Jaguar E-type? Or love the utilitarian ruggedness of a Land Rover Defender? Or the effortless Italian gorgeousness of a Maserati Quattroporte?
    Plus cars say so much about the person driving them. For instance, a clearly well to do man who steps out of a pink Nissan Micra convertible just looks plain ridiculous.
    A tracksuit sporting youth bouncing around in a pimped up tinsel laden Honda Civic is obviously trying to distract everyone from his hideous acne.
    Someone who drives a front wheel drive german diesel is clearly grumbling to all that he had absolutely no interest in motoring and just needs a affordable means of conveyance from A to B, whereas two men hooning around in a Porsche Boxster are proudly announcing to the world that their relationship has taken on a more intimate nature. Anyone trudging around in a grey people carrier are signalling the fact that they've fulfilled their biological function of reproduction and are now happily waiting to shuffle off the mortal coil. A Peugeot driver is looking forward to his inevitable demise because it would give him something to do.
    I could go on and on.
    But even that doesn't really matter as much as what the car can do. Practically any of us can climb aboard outside our front door and, if we keep going long enough, arrive at the other side of the world. Yes a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta would be more exciting than a diesel Ford Fiesta, but the gap between them is a mere fissure with the yawning chasm between the Fiesta and no car at all.
    The car is still one of the greatest adventures open to us.
    I think I might go for a drive.

    1. You state a impassioned case, A.N, although I profoundly disagree with the joy of driving in a car to see the world - in comparison with virtually any other mode of transport (train, aeroplane, helicopter, bike, on foot, boat, horseback, rickshaw, Segway, etc), the car comes right at the bottom of the pile.

      The exception is coach. Man, I hate coaches. I'm not sure I trust myself to even tackle that word in a printable manner when it comes up ...

  5. Cars are lovely,
    Cars are great,
    Just cause you've no interest,
    Don't berate

    1. Cars are boring
      Cars are dull
      As are car lovers
      Including y'all


  6. No need for me to say anything - it's all been said!! :)
    Personally, I would prefer a horse and carriage!

    1. Oh you wait until I get to 'carriage', Jingles - if people think I was harsh on cars ...

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