Alfa Romeo Toe-Nail? Italian SUV Is The Latest In A Long Line Of Cars Names That Are Too Easy To Get Wrong

Remember when Porsche was priming us for the release of the Taycan and actually produced a video explaining how to correctly pronounce the new EV’s name?

I was reminded of this the other day when Alfa Romeo launched its new small SUV, and it became apparent that unkind types were reffing to it on social media as the “Toe Nail”. They were just having fun at Alfa’s expense, of course, but isn’t it likely that plenty of people might not know how to pronounce it? While Europeans mostly refer to two doors cars as Koop-hays, Americans have been calling the same things Koops for decades. So is Toe-Nail any less likely to be right than Tonale to a regular guy on the street?

Growing up in the UK but with a weird fascination for American tin in the pre-internet age I immersed myself in a world of cars with surprisingly complicated foreign-sounding names. You almost never heard anyone say their names on British TV, so all I had to go on was copies of Motor Trend, Car & Driver and Road & Track, plus a few books, and I don’t remember even seeing any phonetic spellings to help me out.

The Alfa Romeo Tonale

It took me years to discover I’d been saying them wrong, either because I had no idea how to pronounce them, or because I had an idea how they ought to be pronounced but couldn’t image some American hill farmer who’d never left the county putting on a perfect French accent to order his new Buick sedan. I wondered if Detroit might have created its own way of pronouncing these words, in the vein of the Koop/Koopay thing.

The cars that tied me in linguistic knots included the Buick LeSabre (Luh-Saybuh? Luh-Sabberr? Luh-Sabbray?), Cadillac Brougham (Bruff-am? Broom?), Chevrolet Camaro (Kamm-a-row? Samm-a-row? Kamm-are-row?) and the Buick Reatta (Ree-tah? Ray-tah?).

And then there was the Mercury Grand Marquis, the Plymouth Belvedere, Ford LTD and Merkur, Ford’s 1980s attempt to take on BMW. The school-age me struggled with them all, but come to think of it, if I had been less interested in garbage Detroit cars, I would have had far less of a problem.

Read: What’s The Worst Car Name Of All Time?

But it wasn’t only American cars. For years I was convinced Porsche’s bug-eyed, rear-engine icon was the Nine-One-One, and if the 968 is correctly referred to even by Porsche itself as the Nine-Six-Eight, then why would’t it be? And the 12 year-old me had no idea that Alfa’s Giulia was actually a Julia, and not a Gweelliah, or where to begin when I saw a 1930s Delage mentioned in some classic car mag.

And this didn’t just end when I left school. In my mid 20s while working at Autocar I referred to the Lancia Thema in conversation, pronouncing the “th” as you would in Thelma and Louise. The car had been out of production for almost a decade at this point so I’d only even seen the name written down.

But a posher colleague whose parents had sent him to a fancy fee-paying British school where you have to dress like Harry Potter told me the correct pronunciation was “Taim-ah” because there’s no Thelma sound in Latin. See, that’s what your $30k a year buys you, parents. The ability to look smart when talking about 20 year-old, $500 Italian sedans.

Ferrari “Purosangue”. Go on, take a stab at it

These days, with video content easily accessible, fans can share their knowledge with each other and manufacturers have their own social media accounts to help communicate information about their new cars. Going one further, the helpful folks at Aston Martin Palm Beach have an online guide covering how to pronounce not just every one of the brand’s models, but the name of the marque itself. Even I never had a problem with that one, but clearly some people do.

So there’s less chance of confusion for buyers, and less chance of being laughed out of the bar when you open your mouth and get it wrong in front of someone better clued up than yourself. Less chance, but not no chance.

With cars like Ferrari’s Purosangue SUV (which Maranello tells me is pronounced Pure-oh-sang-gway), the new Veloqx Fangio (Vee-locks Fange-ee-oh, in case you were wondering), and Aston Marton Valkyrie (think Val-kee-ree says Aston Palm Beach) in the news, plus an invasion of Chinese vehicles imminent with badges I can barely spell, let alone pronounce, carmakers seem to be doubling down on opportunities to trip us up.

And some of us can’t, and don’t, want to be un-tripped. Being a Brit, and a northern one at that, I’ll still be saying Lan-see-yah, Porshh, Purj-oh, Byew-gatti and Mazuh-ratt-eee no ho many YouTube videos I watch telling me I’m getting it badly wrong.

What car names have tripped you up? Leave a comment and let us know.

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