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Before They Were Called Automobiles, Cars Had a Lot of Terrible Names



old car

Cars have been around for more than a century now. We take it for granted that we have names like ‘automobile’ and ‘car’ to describe these four-wheeled beasts we love so much; they’re the only names we’ve ever known. But, friends, it could have been worse. It could have been so much worse.

What started out as a quest to explore the rise and fall of some of America’s original auto manufacturers turned into a realization that, dear God, just about everyone who put an engine on some wheels had a different name for their creation. I mean, it makes sense; I’m sure the cavemen who invented clothing all had a different name for what they were covering their bodies with. It makes sense that cars wouldn’t have always been ‘cars’.

See, what we consider our norm today pissed off a lot of people back in the day. In an August 1897 issue, The New York Times reported that “the new mechanical wagon with the awful name automobile has come to stay”.

Wait, what? Awful? If that was so awful, then what were our other options?
Let’s Talk Patents

In 1792, Oliver Evans applied for a US patent in Philadelphia for what was, at the time, essentially a prototype of what we’d consider a car today. Its name? Oruktor Amphibolos. We’ve written a whole article about this legendary creation, but it was basically designed to dredge Philadelphia’s dockyards. It was the first self-propelled vehicle in America at the time, but it couldn’t actually dredge much of anything because Evans was mostly just excited to build an engine. It’s probably good that this thing didn’t stick around.

Then came George Selden, a patent attorney from New York. In 1879, he patented something he called a “road machine” (which is slightly more agreeable than the Oruktor). He hadn’t actually, y’know, built anything yet, but he kept expanding the patent throughout the years as automotive technology advanced because it meant he could collect royalties from American car manufacturers.

Good ol’ Henry Ford was rightfully annoyed that this guy who hadn’t even made anything could reap the benefits of all the hard work automakers were putting in. He took Selden to court in 1904, where the judge decided that Selden would have to build a road machine from his own patent. Selden couldn’t do it. In 1911, the patent was overturned, giving manufacturers the freedom to build cars at a lower cost, since they didn’t have to shell out big bucks to a guy whose claim to fame was some words on a page, not an automobile.

While the Selden drama was playing out, brothers Charles and Frank Duryea decided they wanted to expand their bicycle making business to include cars as well. They patented their “motor wagons” in 1895, and they had a pretty interesting history. Frank Duryea drove one of their cars to the win America’s first automobile race, averaging a whopping speed of 7.3 mph. The press they received meant they were able to sell the first commercial vehicle in the US, which was then promptly involved in America’s first recorded car accident. Nice. Motor wagons did not catch on.

And then, we had Henry Ford. Drawing his inspiration from the bicycle, Ford submitted a patent in 1896 for what he was calling a “Quadricycle”. It was a name that, thankfully, didn’t stick around for very long.
Thanks, Media
Early media references to cars utilized a wide variety of fun and creative names. There wasn’t any standardization yet as far as names or even designs went. For journalists and authors, it was basically a creative exercise to describe something they’d never seen before. A fine selection of their choices include:

  • Autobaine
  • Autokenetic
  • Autometon
  • Automotor horse
  • Buggyaut
  • Diamote
  • Horseless carriage
  • Mocole
  • Motor carriage
  • Motorig
  • Motor-vique
  • Oleo locomotive
  • Truckle

So Where Did Today’s Names Come From?

‘Automobile’ was just one of the many words being thrown around back in the day. We’re not really sure how it came to be our standard, but its use in The New York Times was a key factor in its widespread adoption.

The name first originated with an Italian painter and engineer back in the 1300s. His name was Martini, and he, like Selden, never actually built a car. He did draw up plans for a four-wheeled man-powered carriage, though, and called it the automobile by combining the Greek word auto (‘self’) and the Latin word mobils (‘moving’). Or, a self-moving vehicle. Easy.

Plus, it sounded a whole lot nicer than something like ‘autobaine’. Yeesh.

“Car” had been around for a while. Derived from the Celtic word carrus (‘cart’ or ‘wagon’), it had been another name for horse-drawn carriages. It was a pretty easy transfer, given what some of the first vehicles looked like.

All I gotta say is, we got pretty lucky when it came to names.


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9-year-old genius to graduate university




Laurent Simons

(CNN) – A child prodigy from Belgium is on course to gain a bachelor’s degree at the tender age of 9.

Laurent Simons is studying electrical engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) — a tough course even for students of an average graduate age.

Described by staff as “simply extraordinary,” Laurent is on course to finish his degree in December.

He then plans to embark on a PhD program in electrical engineering while also studying for a medicine degree, his father told CNN.

His parents, Lydia and Alexander Simons, said they thought Laurent’s grandparents were exaggerating when they said he had a gift, but his teachers soon concurred.

“They noticed something very special about Laurent,” said Lydia.

Laurent was given test after test as teachers tried to work out the extent of his talents. “They told us he is like a sponge,” said Alexander.

While Laurent comes from a family of doctors, his parents have so far not received any explanation as to why their child prodigy is capable of learning so quickly.

But Lydia has her own theory.

“I ate a lot of fish during the pregnancy,” she joked.

The TUE has allowed Laurent to complete his course faster than other students.

“That is not unusual,” said Sjoerd Hulshof, education director of the TUE bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, in a statement.

“Special students that have good reasons for doing so can arrange an adjusted schedule. In much the same way we help students who participate in top sport.”

Hulshof said Laurent is “simply extraordinary” and praised the youngster.

“Laurent is the fastest student we have ever had here,” he said. “Not only is he hyper intelligent but also a very sympathetic boy.”

Laurent told CNN his favorite subject is electrical engineering and he’s also “going to study a bit of medicine.”

His progress has not gone unnoticed and he is already being sought out by prestigious universities around the world, although Laurent’s family wouldn’t be drawn on naming which of them he is considering for his PhD.

“The absorption of information is no problem for Laurent,” said his father.

“I think the focus will be on research and applying the knowledge to discover new things.”

While Laurent is evidently able to learn faster than most, his parents are being careful to let him enjoy himself too.

“We don’t want him to get too serious. He does whatever he likes,” said Alexander. “We need to find a balance between being a child and his talents.”

Laurent said he enjoys playing with his dog Sammy and playing on his phone, like many young people.

However, unlike most 9-year-olds, he has already worked out what he wants to do with his life: develop artificial organs.

In the meantime, Laurent has to finish his bachelor’s degree and choose which academic institution will play host to the next stage in his remarkable journey.

Before that, he plans on taking a vacation to Japan for an undoubtedly well-deserved break.

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New award to honor arts and activism named after Lena Horne




Lena Horne

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Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem




Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem

Two gangbangers aimed their BMW like a missile at a father and his 8-year-old son on a Harlem sidewalk in a horrifying incident captured by video distributed by police Thursday.

The BMW — driven by a man police believe is a member of the Gorilla Stone Bloods Gang — was zeroed in on the father, a rival gang member, said cops.

Around 3:45 p.m. Nov. 6, the boy and his father were walking on W. 112th St. by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. when the BMW jumped the sidewalk and slammed into them both, said cops.

Father and son were both knocked through a gate.

The BMW driver then backed up — and its driver and passenger, also believed to be a gang member, jumped out of the car and ran toward the father and the son.

One of the attackers slashed the father, identified by sources as 32-year-old Brian McIntosh, who’s served prison time for robbery and bail jumping.

McIntosh and his son went to Harlem Hospital. Miraculously, the boy escaped serious harm.

McIntosh was so adamant about refusing to help police catch his attackers that the young boy’s mother had to file a police report alleging he was the victim of a crime, police sources said.

Cops released video of the attack, and ask anyone with information about the suspects to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.


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