Tom’s Take: Pronounce it Right, Don’t be a Schmuck!

No matter your passion, there are points of contention. These nuances either can make the “expert” feel holier-than-thou or just completely frustrated. These refer to simple facts about a given person’s interest. When it comes to cars, people can talk out their ass all day long, and still the rest of us will be tolerant. However, mispronounce different marques in the automotive world and I see red!

I am certain that what follows will be about as effective as a long dissertation on how the left lane on the 405 is for passing only. Just like “lane squatters” (for which I will rant about in a future column), ordinary people will continue to mispronounce car names. It probably should not be such a big deal, but sadly for me, the idiot who refers to the great marque of Coventry a “Jag-wire” makes me want to grab them by the lips and help them with correct elocution. For the benefit of those in car circles, allow me to help you not look like an ignorant tool the next time you hang around at the concours d’elegance.

Speaking of Coventry, and its legendary marque, Jaguar, this might be the easiest one to get wrong. However, for your benefit, I will include others below. Jaguar is a British car — despite its current Indian (TATA) and previous Ford ownership — and the best way to pronounce the name is with a British bent: say “JAG-U-ARE.” The American pronunciation JAG-WAR is reasonably acceptable too. Where people get JAG-WIRE confounds me. It makes me think of the time I pulled up to the 15-minute oil change place in my XJ6 so many years ago and the guy there says, “Oh we don’t know how to change the oil on a JAG-WIRE…” What a schmuck! Perhaps if he wasn’t so intimidated, he might see that it was actually easier than changing the oil on a Chevy…That, and he sounded like a guy who’s academic career took him right up through the third grade. So again: JAG-U-ARE or the acceptable JAG-WAR — like the cat – will not make you sound like the 15-minute oil change flunkey.

As a current owner, without a doubt, the worst infraction of marque pronunciation is PORSCHE! This particular name has two syllables — not one! While racing my Martini-liveried Porsche 968 at various tracks around Southern California and Nevada, I hired legendary Datsun prep guy, Les Cannaday as crew. He can wrench on anything, but has developed a specialty in Datsuns at his Oceanside, CA shop. As a long time buddy and an ace race prep wrench, he was a fun and great choice on several occasions. A great example of our collaboration is in the beginning of the following video when we were late to the grid:


I know Les knows how to pronounce the great Teutonic marque, but just to get under my skin, beyond referring to my car as the “Nazi-built water pumper,” he would call the car “PORCH” — like painting the front porch. The same goes for the guys around Beach Cities Garage. For these guys it is a wink and a smile thing. They do know the real pronunciation. However, they also know that it gives me a stressful moment of pause every time they say the word — which requires immediate correction. The people who really truly get under my skin are the one-syllable PORSHHHH speakers. WRONG! The car has two doors and two syllables: POR-SHA! An official video from the OEM explains below:


Lastly is BMW. How can you get that wrong, you ask? There is the nickname: BIMMER. There are two pronunciations of this nickname. So many under-educated car and non-car people refer to the car as a BEEMER. It is close, but the BEEMER mantra is actually for the motorcycle. When referring to a Bayerische Motoren Werke (which refers to the Bavarian home of the marque, not British Motor Works, you idiot!) car, the true pronunciation is BIMMER (short i). When I was watching the beautiful CSL “Batmobiles” race in the 1970s, that is where I learned the correct way of saying the nickname. Unfortunately, sometime in the 1980s, when the baby-boomer “Yuppies” decided that the 3-series (God bless the E30!) was the official car of yuppie-dum, some influential, but unschooled, banker decided to call the car a BEEMER—and it stuck! For those of you who wish to sound more sophisticated at the many car shows, races, coffee meets, rallies, and such, when you see a nice 2002 or a E30, tell the owner, “Nice BIMMER.” He might look at you questionably. If he does, text him the link to this column.

In hopes that all of you will take what I write to heart, the next time you are out and about in the car world, it behooves you to use the correct pronunciation. Yet, this also leaves me wide open to ridicule — much like Les at Classic Datsun and Cameron and Kevin at Beach Cities Garage — who live to get under my skin.

About the author

Tom Stahler

At eight months of age, Tom Stahler sat in a baby stroller in Thunder Valley and watched Chuck Parsons and Skip Scott win the 1968 Road America 500. He has had the car bug ever since. He has won several awards, including the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor Award and the International Motor Press Association's Gold Medal for his writing and photography. When not chasing the next story, Tom drives in vintage road racing events and spends time with his wife and three daughters in Orange County, California.
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