Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What's in a name

One of my brother Roger's favorite authors was Roger Welsch, whose books on old tractor restoration - Busted Tractors and Rusty Knuckles was the first of several - make entertaining reading. It's been a number of years since I read any of these, but as I recall, one of his chapters addresses the topic of naming one's tractor(s). The naming of one's tractor (or car, plane, bike, blender, etc.) has several levels, which I will attempt to paraphrase: The first is simply referring to it as 'the tractor'. One step up is using the name of the manufacturer, i.e. 'the Ford'. More devoted owners tend to be found at the next level, where you use the tractor's model name: 'the Dexta'. Since many tractors simply have alpha or numerical model designations (4000, WD, D-8, etc.), this could be pushing tractor geekdom. The final, highest (or lowest, depending upon your point of view) level is where the tractor becomes a named member of the family: 'Old Bess'.

What brought all this to mind was a recent observation that several of the carriers at LAX have named their aircraft. I suspect that this originally goes back to aviation's nautical heritage: I don't think I've ever seen a boat bigger than a bath tub that didn't have a name of some sort; even my grandfather's Boston Whaler had a name: 'Hunky Dory'. Many of the air carriers have named their aircraft after cities they serve: KLM brought in City of Jakarta and City of Orlando last week. Likewise, Air New Zealand's 747's have names such as Wellington, Bay of Islands, Kaikoura, and Christchurch. Curiously, only the 747's seem to have names; I haven't observed monikers on New Zealand's 767's or 777's. Hawaiian's 767's have names too: Noio and Koa'e 'ula are a couple. I have no idea how to pronounce them, nor if these are towns, islands, or Hawaiian words for 'big noisy bird'. Meanwhile the iBook's spellcheck is about to have a meltdown!

In contrast to these fairly mundane names, the Virgin aircraft have much more imaginative names. Virgin America has contents may be under pressure, virgin & tonic, tubular belle, jane (as in plane jane), and fog cutter. Others include: unicorn chaser, runway angel, mach daddy, an airplane named desire, jefferson airplane, and my favorite: my other ride's a spaceship (a reference to Virgin Galactic, one of the supporters and now the owner of the Scaled Composites White Knight / Spaceship One project, which won the X-Prize competition for the first reusable spacecraft, and intends to offer space tourism flights starting at a very reasonable $200K).

Virgin Atlantic's aircraft also have fun names, but they've taken it a step further with vanity registrations: 'Cover Girl' has G-VOGE; 'Virgin Girl' G-VGAS; 'Lady Luck' G-VWIN; 'Scarlet Lady' G-VRED; 'Surfer Girl' G-VWEB; and 'Madam Butterfly ' is G-VSHY. Each of these also has some nose art:


While many of the pictures are too small to read the names clearly, if you click on the picture you'll get a much larger version to look at; using the 'Back' button on your browser should return you here.

For a more comprehensive listing of Roger Welsch's books, try this link to Amazon:


The noio is an indigenous Hawaiian seabird better known as the Noddy Tern or Black Noddy. See this link:

http://www.state.hi.us/dlnr/dofaw/cwcs/files/NAAT final CWCS/Chapters/Terrestrial Fact Sheets/Seabirds/Black Noddy NAAT final !.pdf

For more about Virgin Galactic, go here:


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