Bad automotive marketing decisions

There are a squillion possible things you can name a car. Generally, you take something that sounds vaguely foreign, and slap an "a" on the end. Cecil at The Straight Dope did a column a while ago (and by 'a while', I mean 'when I was one year old') on the subject. I do not understand the marketing logic behind the decision, then, to bring out a new vehicle with the same name as an older one. This is particularly puzzling when the new vehicle shares zero design lineage with the old one. It's not a two-thousand-and-whatever model of the same car, it's a whole 'nother car entirely.

Case in point, the Holden Cruze. Holden is an Australian car manfacturer. Half of the Australian population support them. The other half support Ford. I'll get to them in a moment.

hold_cruzThis is a Holden Cruze from 2002. It's a kind of beach buggy thing. It's pretty hideous. The rear of the thing has ghastly round tail lights. It's about as intimidating as a boiled potato. You might sometimes see re-branded Cruze(s) getting around as Suzuki Ignis(es).

hold_cruz_09This is the Holden Cruze from 2009. It's an economical small car that boasts the looks and spaciousness of a larger car. It's actually kinda sexy, all things considered. It's a completely different vehicle, targeted at a completely different audience in a completely different market sector, and for a completely different purpose. It's clear that someone just kinda thought "Cruze" was a cool name, and it's a shame it was wasted on that Tupperware container on wheels they made in 2002 -- but wait, maybe no-one will remember that piece of junk. Yeah, lets use the name again.

The '09-onwards Cruze is also marketed as the Daewoo Lacetti, in a badge-and-name-change that gives it that ring of class it was initially lacking. The only thing cool about the Daewoo Lacetti is its occasional appearance on Top Gear as the "reasonably priced car", but unfortunately for the '09 Cruze/Lacetti, the car featured on Top Gear is an earlier model that bears no resemblance to the vehicle pictured above. It was also retired from the show and replaced by a Kia. That's just..........rude.

Case in point part deux: The Ford Kuga.

ford_kuga_13This is the 2013 Ford Kuga. It's a cool looking car. Mechanically, it's a four-wheel-drive (ish) thing constructed over the chassis of a Ford Focus. It's marketed in Australia as the smaller brother of the Ford Territory, and aimed at the 'soccer mom' demographic (ironic, perhaps, for the purposes of this article that it circles back around to the market sector the original Holden Cruze was potentially aimed toward).

This is great, except: In the non-rhotic Australian accent, "Kuga" is a homonym with --

ford_cougar-- the Ford Cougar. This horrid thing is a mid-life-crisis-on-wheels from the late '90s to early '00s that was marketed in Australia in thankfully limited numbers.

I do not understand why the choice would not be made to use a more unique name for a car model. There are now undoubtedly loads of Ford Kuga drivers who, upon announcing the name of their new ride, are greeted with the looks of stunned incredulity well due to someone who's just announced they've bought a curved-up ludicrous looking skateboard with two doors and a hernia, until they realise the error of their pronunciation and start inflecting the "ah" in "Kug-aaaahh" like Hermione Grainger.

As an aside, Wikipedia has informed me that "kuga" is the Serb-Croatian word for "plague", and that Ford didn't opt to alter the name for its launch in those countries. Dunno about you, but I want to move to Zagreb and buy a black one.

Seeing colours: I am a synesthete

Synesthesia is a neurological condition wherein one associates abstract, intangible things such as numbers, letters, words, musical notes or chords with sensory information usually associated with something physical, like colours, tastes or physical sensations. The most common form of synesthesia is grapheme-colour synesthesia. In this condition, one associates numbers, letters or words with colours. I have this condition. I've always had it. I assumed it was normal. I thought everyone saw colours when they thought of numbers, letters and words.

Wikipedia's page on synesthesia is fairly in-depth. There's also a website called the Synesthesia Battery which has an online test you can take to determine if you're synesthetic or not. (I took the test, and its results weren't as conclusive as I'd hoped for my own experiences. I feel that the test relies more on the user being able to repeatedly recognise fairly similar colours with very little margin for error than actually acknowledging when two quite similar colours are selected. I'm sorry, my brain doesn't function in HSV values.)

This is my alphabet. I own it. Hands off.

Whack the link below to keep reading, if you're into numbers and colours, and the unnatural marriage thereof.

Brady Haran's Numberphile, one of my favourite YouTube channels, recently posted a follow-up to their previous video on the subject of synesthesia. I've embedded both episodes below for your perusal:

And the follow-up:

I notice that these videos tend to avoid the subject of grapheme-colour synesthesia for letters and words, but I suspect there's a conscious decision at play considering the YouTube channel hosting them is dedicated largely to numbers.

I've included my own synesthesia alphabet above, for fun. It seems to me that my perception of grapheme-colour tends to be related largely to the geometric shape of the characters, with the following specifics:

  • sharp angles seem to tend towards green and olive
  • right angles lean towards brown, with "F" and "T" being very specifically brown. "L" strikes me as green, though
  • Rounded shapes tend to take on a yellow hue
  • "A", as recounted by many synesthetes, is almost always represented as red
  • The three middle vowels are very neutral

My perception of numbers is more interesting:

Numbers ahoy!

There's less consistency, here. But, surprisingly, there's actually some logic, and much like Alex in the Numberphile videos, it seems to be largely factorial.

  • One and zero are neutral, much like the vowels in the alphabet
  • I have a suspicion that four is red largely because of its resemblance in form to the letter "A". If this is the case, my own mental association made this connection many years before Leetspeak was ever a thing
  • A similar thing no doubt applies to five and its resemblance to "S"

The factorial nonsense comes into play when you organise the numbers:

synes_evenTwo, four and eight are warm coloured numbers.



Three, six and nine are cool.

I've found limited practical applications for my "abilities". One of the few is that in data entry work, I find that I can error-check data fairly efficiently by relying on the colours associated with figures. If a figure is supposed to be the same in two different locations, it's plainly obvious to me if it's not the right "colour".

Larger numbers are generally a gestalt of the colours represented by the figures that comprise them, with the hues blending across the figure. Some specific really big numbers have weird habits: One million (1,000,000) appears blue, presumably due to the connection with the letter "M", and one billion (1,000,000,000) appears green, again because of the letter "B".

Musical notes and chords also have coloured connections for me, again largely governed by the letters that associate with them.

chordsWhen notes become flat or sharp, they change their appearance slightly. Flat notes (or chords) become darker. E flat actually becomes darker than its default state, black, but I can't represent this in a picture because there's nothing darker than black! Sharp notes and chords take on a desaturated look, with an ethereal kind of rusted vomit colour that I've been unable to represent graphically. (Come to think of it, I'm appalled by my description of it, too. Rusted vomit? Nice.)

Minor chords reflect a paler, ice-cream texture. Other chord types, 7ths, augmented chords, diminished chords, etc, have their own peculiar qualities.

I find it exciting to think about the possibility that synesthesia may be the only quantifiable example of qualia at work. Qualia is a collective term for all the little things that happen inside your mind, that you can't directly share with another person. For example:

  • The age-old psychological litmus test: Do you see colours the same way I do? Is my red your blue? Does it matter?
  • What does a strawberry taste like to you?
  • What does a noise sound like to you?

Sensory information is fickle, and the idea that we all sense things the same way is largely untestable. The most frustrating (or perhaps relieving) thing about this problem is that it makes no difference in the end. If I see a stop sign as what I call "red", and you see it as what I call "blue" (but what you call "red"), it makes no difference, because we both call it "red" and stop at it.

Synesthetic responses could be the missing link for qualia. Many synesthetes report similar associations between colours and characters. Brady's second video (embedded above) includes a chart of reported synesthetic connections from his readers. It may be possible that this kind of information proves the existance, and uniqueness of qualia.

Oh, and Porcupine Tree have an awesome song from their 1992 album Up The Downstair entitled Synesthesia. You should go buy it from Burning Shed.

Grammar peculiarities: "Mose well"

I find it kind of satisfying when I Google the crap out of something and don't ultimately come up with a decent result. It means a couple of things:

  • it means I'm looking for something incredibly obscure, which is always satisfying
  • it means there's an opportunity to fill a gap in the internet, even if I'm filling it with my own opinion

Case in point, the phrase (or fragment of a phrase), mose well. 

It means, rather obviously, "might as well". "I might as well eat an apple" could be contracted to "I mose well eat an apple".

Some examples, trawled from the results of a Google search:

A fair question -- I'm not so pleased with the answer, though. I'm not sure what Samantha means by "the first way is the correct way". Does she mean "mose well", or "most well"? Or "might as well"? My head hurts.

I have that problem ALL the time.

Yes. Yes, you should. 1184 people are waiting with bated breath.

Arnt you?

It's more of a verbal slur than a contraction, and its something that has found its way into writing by purely descriptive means -- people writing they way they speak.

A brief aside on prescriptive versus descriptive recording of language, if I may --

When the words and usage of a language are recorded in the way they should be used, the recording is prescriptive. It's giving an instruction (a prescription, if you will) for how to use the language. A dictionary, usually, is prescriptive.

Descriptive recording is the recording of a language as it is spoken, with all its flaws, with the kind of "bad grammar" that evolves over time through a culture of people who use the language as a tool for communicating efficiently with one another. Historically, this kind of record is found in the writings of authors who mimic the voice of characters, inflections and pronunciations exaggerated or enhanced. Today, you'll find it everywhere, from Facebook status updates to "txt speak" and SMS messages.

There's some discord among scholars and pedagogues about which of these methods of recording is right or good, and at the end of the day the answer is always both and neither.

I digress.

Mose well is an informal contraction of "might as well". The closest similar terms I can think of are informal abbreviations like should of, would of and could of. These three examples are descriptive recordings of pronunciation, where the "ov" sound of the contracted "have" in should have, would have and could have has been replaced with its homonym: the word of. In my opinion -- for what that's worth -- should of, could of and would of are wrong. It's entirely possible they're going to worm their way into the English language anyway.

They mose well.

Educational arcs

I have a new annoyance. It's another one of those pieces of English that no one seems to know how to use. It's deeply misunderstood. It's the term "learning curve". I'm continually, it seems, encountering people who believe that because something involves learning, that the entire project can be described as a "learning curve". "It's a learning curve." "This is difficult. It's a learning curve."

This is not correct.

It may have a learning curve. In fact, I guarantee it has one.

A learning curve is not the mere existance of learning. A learning curve is a way of describing the increasing (or decreasing) difficulty in the learning process for a given activity. A steep learning curve exists when a task is difficult to master, a more gentle curve when the job is easier.

You can read about learning curves in far more detail than I care to go into over at Wikipedia, the bastion of opinion-disguised-as-fact and the bane of high school paper graders world-wide.

If you have a new skill to learn, remember that it has a learning curve, and if you want to complain about it, it's probably a steep one.