Toyota‘s new Prius hybrid gas/electric car debuts in America, predictions about
its public reception have come from an unlikely source. A national name creation
company has announced concern about the car’s pronunciation and verbal associations.
"Prius scored alarmingly low on our Name Scale. I hope it’s not headed
for a Nova-type disaster,” says Lauren Teton of the Pound Ridge, New York office
of Name One!, referring to Chevy’s disastrous introduction of the Nova to Latin
America, where the name was read as "no va – it doesn’t go.”
"The name Prius is only two letters removed from Priapus, the Greco-Roman
god of the erect phallus. Is Prius just for men to drive?” wonders Teton. "A
subtle reference to sex can be good in a name. But this is blatant. Equally
bad, it evokes words with negative connotations like ‘price,’ ‘bias,’ ‘priss,’
and `pious’. And why would they choose a name that means ”before" in Latin
for such a modern car?”
Additionally, Prius scored low on Name One’s Name Scale because of its ambiguous
pronunciation. The Name Scale assigns points to rate product and company names
on factors that affect memorability and user-friendliness of names. Names are
rated on how good they sound, look and feel. According to the survey done by
Name One, respondents wondered whether they should pronounce it ‘pree-us’ or
pry-us. Others who answered the survey said the name made them think
‘Pry us out of this small car,’ or ‘pry us away from our money.
In comparison to the low Name Scale score of minus 3 for Prius, another name
from Toyota, Lexus, is a big winner with a superior score of 9 on a scale of
1 to 10.
’Lexus’ contains all the letters of the word ‘sex,’" says Teton.
”It starts with the euphonious letter ‘L’ and has a five-letter consonant-vowel-consonant
structure. It is clear to the ear and easy to spell. These are some of the factors
which combine to make it a near-perfect name."
Teton says, "A viable car with an electric power source like this is an
outstanding, forward-thinking idea, and deserves a better name. People will
learn the correct pronunciation pree-us. But why start out a new
car model at a disadvantage?”