Growing up, I thought that people who named their daughters Mercedes were doing so in a nod to the German luxury car. In reality, Mercedes is Spanish for ‘mercy’ and was a common girl’s name well before 1902 when Emil Jellinek named his car company after his 13-year-old daughter, Mercedes. But by this point, it doesn’t matter which came first. The name Mercedes will forever be associated with the automobile.
Naming a car after a girl worked out so well for Mercedes that now French car maker Renault is doing the same thing. Their latest car, a two-door electric model, will be called The Zoé. Renault thinks the name “evokes values of femininity, of youth, a playful spirit and vivacity.” Parents of girls named Zoé think it stinks.
The name Zoé comes in at number 17 on the list of popular girls’ names in France. That’s a whole lot of girls with names that will soon be synonymous with a cute little economy car. But many of those Zoé parents are fighting back. They are complaining to Renault, launching petitions and generally making a lot of noise trying to convince the car maker to choose another name.
As someone with a name that popular is among dog owners, I understand their consternation. But Renault says they have no plans to re-think their decision and these parents are just going to have to get over it. Perhaps a brand new Zoé for each of them might smooth things over a bit?