Posted by: deadmousediaries | February 19, 2017

Presidents’ Day Language of Love: Keep Your Motor Running, Honey!

Valentine’s Day might be over but chances are good some of us are already flirting with a hot new romance. Presidents’ Day is now looming large and you can expect there will be a rush of starry-eyed proposals and tearful separations on car lots everywhere. We are on the cusp of car buying Nirvana and let’s face it friends, here in the U.S. we are in love with our cars. When you look at the numbers, it’s hard to deny.

Depending on which report you reference, there are at least 260 million registered cars in the United States. That’s a meaningful statistic for a country where the entire population number, babies and all, hovers somewhere around 319 million. Some reports also tell us that 7.7 million cars are purchased here each year and that the average age of cars running across America today is 11.4 years. That means at least a portion of our cars get recycled as “new to you.”

According to the car-buying gurus, Presidents’ Day is one of the best times of the year to land a great deal. Dealers want to move last year’s models that are taking up valuable real estate. The weather is generally crappy in February and people aren’t motivated to roll out of the warm to tromp through dealership lots or even go ogle the buy they found online. Tax refunds aren’t yet in our hands so we don’t have that tempting infusion of cash. When you combine all that with the fact that sales quotas exist even in the super short month of February, the odds are in the buyer’s favor for putting the pedal to the metal and driving off with a deal.

If you need to make chit-chat with strangers or bridge an awkward silence at a social gathering, simply ask people about their first car and watch their faces light up. Even if it was a gas-guzzling garage queen that spent more time on the rack than the road, everyone who has ever owned a car has a story they’re happy to share. Those thoughts often bring up memories of the first tastes of independence and invincibility, the promise of eternal youth and of course the joys of learning that having a car meant not only could you go driving, you could also go parking.

I was a late bloomer; my first car was single horsepower because it was a horse. While most of my friends were cruising around town with their eight tracks blaring, laying down the stink of burning rubber, I was listening to clip-clop and leaving behind an aromatic trail of horse biscuits. Before I was old enough to saddle up on my own, I drove a horse with training wheels which of course was a pony in a cart.

When the car bug finally hit, I was off in a brand new Chevy coupe 350, metallic blue, bucket seats, automatic bar shift on the floor. Sweet. Her name was Baby Jane. There was no logic or memory to prompt her naming; that’s simply who she was. I came from a long line of car namers and have many happy memories as a kid bumping along in the back seat of our Chevy Banty Rooster.


Does your car have a name? Now there’s a conversation starter. In October, 2013, USA Today built a story around the results of a Nationwide Insurance company survey that found one in four us name our cars. If you think that’s weird, I guess you can’t get on board with KITT, Christine, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The General or Greased Lightning either. If you do get it and want to find your people, here are a few more results from that survey:

– Car owners between the ages of 18 and 34 are more likely to name their cars.

– Women are more likely than men to have a nickname for their cars.

– More than 31% were inspired to name the vehicle based on its color or appearance.

– Men are more likely than women to name their car after a famous historical person or a character in a movie.

There is a psychology term for describing our naming of cars and it is anthropomorphism which means giving human characteristics to non-human entities. Adam Waytz, a psychologist and professor at Northwestern University, tells us that we do this for three reasons: the object may resemble a human in looks; we want a frame of reference for understanding the object’s behavior or we want to make a social connection with the object. The speculation? Perhaps when we see our cars with human characteristics, it could make us better drivers and remind us to take better care of our cars.

In a completely non-scientific survey of my own, I asked friends and friends of friends about their car naming experience. More women than men said yes, they’ve named a car. Most people, even the men, referred to their cars as female, even if only as “the old gal is running great.” My favorite story came from a man who said the only car he had ever named was his Nissan 350 Z;  he named her TY after an exotic dancer he had met. On the other end of the spectrum, I had a college roommate who called her car Esmarelda. That wasn’t some exotic foreign princess reference but more like an ancient, halting, white Rambler kind of thing.

If you haven’t named your car but think you might want to improve your relationship with her, it’s not too late. October 2, 2017, has again been set as National Car Naming Day (yes, there’s a day for that, too). In the meantime, you can get some help weighing in on possible names by using free online services. Simply Google car name generators.

Prompts on each site will ask you to answer some basic questions about your car, nothing too personal or identity revealing. You’ll pick words to describe it, choose the fantasy road trip on your bucket list or highlight a favorite car movie. You can change your input and start over again at any time. I didn’t like any of my first-round names of Jewell the Jeep, Jaya, or JC. I changed one parameter and came closer in line with Meryl Street and Muddy Hackett. My favorite of all the names the system generated was Truck-o-Saurus.

It really doesn’t matter what the psychology says, my Jeep is Baby Beet and I knew it from the moment I met her. I won’t be seeing you on any car lots this Presidents’ Day but wish you well. I’m still in love with Beet after all these years and have no plans to separate.


  1. Your humor never disappoints. Thanks again for the grins!

  2. Mine is Little Blue………….and before that I had Margie……….short for Margarita!


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