Thursday, June 4, 2009

Škoda: an unfortunate name for a car company

I’m in Luxembourg on a business trip. Technically I guess I’m in Luxembourg City. Even though Luxembourg is one of those postage stamp sized European countries (you can drive across it in 40-50 minutes) it is still large enough to have more than one city, unlike say Monaco or Vatican City.

In any case, I went wandering around the city center last night with my co-worker and her partner looking for a place to eat, and we ran straight into the finish line of the Tour de Luxembourg. Excuse me, the “Škoda Tour de Luxembourg”. Škoda is a brand of automobile.

But not just any brand of automobile. You see Škoda was the Czeck national automobile before being bough by Volkswagen after the fall of communism. Its origins date back to the 1860’s when Emil Škoda founded a machinery company and named it after himself.

Unfortunately for Emil, the word “škoda” in Czech means “damage, detriment, harm, or pity”. The phrase “to je škoda” means “what a pity” to be precise.

It’s roughly the linguistic equivalent of naming a car company after yourself if your last name was, say, “Lemon”.

So if you’re one of the roughly 600,000 people last year who bought a Škoda, your car is inherently “damaged”. What a pity.

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