When you look back at memorable road trips, steamy back-seat action or even the most frustrating traffic jam you’ve ever been stuck in, your car is likely to be a part of that memory. For many of us, our cars are our trusted companions. No wonder 80% of UK car owners name their cars, according to research results revealed by 1st for Women Insurance. The trend is probably similar in South Africa.
Considering how much time we spend in our cars, it’s no surprise that we bond with them and care about their condition. Naming our cars is also a form of anthropomorphism – the practice of attributing human characteristics to inanimate objects. And because cars move, many of us don’t even think of them as inanimate objects. The fact that we personalise them means they feel like a trusted old friend, so it makes sense to name them.
Naming your car indicates affection for the complicated piece of machinery that’s responsible for getting you safely from point A to point B every day. According to the survey, women are more likely to name their cars than men are and, perhaps in consequence, they usually drive with greater care and consideration.
It has been proven that people who are emotionally attached to their cars tend to look after them better than those who aren’t. Many people seem to feel that by naming their cars they can communicate with them and even negotiate or plead with them to keep going until they reach a garage.
As far back as 5OOBC, mariners used to name their ships after women because they were ‘married to the sea’. They spent a great deal of time away from the women they loved, so they would name their ships after them. People have since adapted this tradition by naming their cars, and male names have become just as acceptable and commonplace as female ones. According to the survey, people tend to give their cars a name of the opposite sex. 81% of men give their car a female name and 91% of women refer to their car as masculine.
When choosing the perfect moniker, drivers usually base their choice on the colour of the car, its make, a celebrity or a former lover. It’s impossible to find the most common name given to a car in South Africa, because it’s based on personal preference.
Mahlodi*, 26, a Johannesburg copywriter, says she chose the name ‘Carter’ for her new Hyundai i20 because she feels very powerful behind the wheel and sees the name as ‘strong’. ‘I named the car after my favourite rapper, Jay-Z. His surname is Carter and he overcame all the odds to become successful. I really admire his will to succeed. Getting my car was a great accomplishment for me, so I figured I’d name it after him.’
Natasha*, 25, a fashion intern from Johannesburg, named her Peugeot 207 convertible ‘Lola’. ‘When I think of The Kinks’s song Lola I think of a sexy showgirl – and because my car was often going to be topless, I thought the name would be clever. I love my Lola and we brave the roads together every day – there’s a definite relationship there,’ she says.
South Africans reportedly like names that are similar to car’s licence plate. For example, PPW might become ‘Pawpaw’, MLY is often ‘MiIly’ and VKG might become ‘Viking’.
What is evident is that people who name their cars usually think more fondly about their transport than those who don’t. This positive emotion can only help when navigating South Africa’s challenging roads.