What’s in a name?

fullback “So Fiat is going to introduce a new bakkie?”

“Yes, Vetfaan. It’s called the Fullback and will be available next year.” Gertruida doesn’t add that the vehicle will be built in Thailand by a Japanese firm for the Italian company: Vetfaan still believes bakkies are unique to South Africa. “They’ll have a 4X4 version as well.”

Vetfaan doesn’t even bother to respond. If the bakkie wasn’t a 4X4, he wouldn’t have mentioned it at all.

“It’s time for you to replace the old Land Rover,” Kleinpiet says.”That thing must have a million kilos on the clock.”

69-LandRover_SIIA_88_SWB_DV-07-CA_02“It’s still as good as new. The carburettor is a bit iffy, but that’s all. And the oil leak isn’t so bad – a can a week is much cheaper than buying a new pickup.” Always fiercely loyal to his Landy, Vetfaan defends the ’69 model with pride. “Last week, on my way to Upington, I even got a speeding ticket.”

“If you’re so happy with that old thing, why did you mention the Fiat?”

“The name got to me. Fullback. The chap with the number 15 jersey. The defender, see? Just like my Landy. But – and this is where the Italians lost the plot – a fullback must also be the secret weapon: able to switch from defence to attack in he blink of an eye. Fast, strong and aggressive when needed; calm and relaxed even under the most trying conditions. A fullback never panics – he stands his ground when the odds are stacked against him.”

“Lost the plot? How can  you say that after praising the vehicle so much?”

Vetfaan turns to Servaas with a mischievous grin. “Think about it, Servaas.  They needed a name no other vehicle ever had. This is a world wide problem for all manufacturers. And the name can’t just be any old name; it has to convey a message. The buyer must feel that he’s invested in something he can trust. Now, calling it a Fullback, might seem interesting to rugby players, and that’s fine in a country where rugby is a generally accepted sport. In South Africa, however, the game of rugby has become a very controversial subject. The government insists on politicising the issue, forcing down quotas and playing the race card over and over again. Remember, too, that the buying power in the country is now situated in the income group that supports soccer. The next thing you’ll hear, is that Fiat is insensitive about our colonial past.”

“I hate that.” Servaas knits his brows together. “Why is everything associated with the past so wrong? Colonialism brought a lot of things to Africa, massively improving the way we live today. If the politicians want to do away with the remnants of colonialism, they should stop using electricity.”

“Ja, and what about suits, ties, shaving cream and panties?” Boggel blushes, glances at Gertruida and shrugs. “But facts are facts, guys. You can’t throw out Rhodes while wearing jeans and T-shirts. If the old ways were so good, why adopt the style of the coloniser? And what about English – isn’t that a legacy of old Queen Vic as well?”

“So you’d like a bakkie to represent South Africa, Vetfaan? Something that is above criticism, epitomises the culture of Africa and is undeniably indigenous?  Well, then you must find a word that encompasses defence, attack, the ability to get into trouble and out of tight spots. It must say something about traction on all kinds of surfaces, the ability to purr over rough areas and the power to wade through mud and water while not getting stuck. In fact, the name must say so much that the majority of the country will fall for it, even though it remains, in the end a Fiat. And you know what that stands for…”

“Ja, that was the old joke. First In All Trouble. Used to laugh at that twenty years ago, but I don’t think it’s true any more.” Boggel actually likes the brand.

“Still,” Kleinpiet continues, “I’d like to know what Vetfaan suggests as a name to replace Fullback.”

“That’s easy,” Vetfaan smiles smugly. “Call it a Zooma.”

2 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

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