For some reason, Jaguar defines cars differently. More importantly, they battle the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) online to discuss the correct term and how it should be used in the future. Yes, I realize this is just a marketing ploy, also to get their all-electric I-PACE name popping up in the media, but it shows they have a serious lack of understanding of language.
Sure. right off the bat, Jag's first sentence is this in their press release: “Jaguar calls on the Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries to update their online definition of the word 'car'” Unsustainable
Overview of the landscape
Times change, so do words
Obsolete & Unsustainable
One could make jokes that Jaguar has struggled to understand concepts like 'electrical reliability' and 'fewer parts make for better engineering', but why would I? As I look at my keyboard, I can still see the scars on my knuckles that the damn Jags put there. No, no chip on my shoulder here. No, my beef is Jaguar's way of asking the OED to update its definition of the word.
“A lot of time and thought goes into naming any new vehicle or technology to make sure it's mainstream. -friendly, so it's surprising that the definition of the car is a bit outdated,” said David Browne, Jaguar Land Rover Naming Committee Manager. "We therefore urge the Oxford English Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionaries to update their classification online to reflect the shift from traditional internal combustion engines to more sustainable powertrains."
See, that's not how dictionaries work. p>
2019 Jaguar I-PACE. Photo: Jaguar Land Rover.
Overview of the landscape
This is a common mistake for people who argue over the meaning of words. Eventually someone will say, “But it says in the dictionary that . . . “As if dictionaries were written by a committee of people who sit down to debate and then, deciding the meaning of a given word, transmit that knowledge, ex cathedra, from their ivory tower for us to follow.
That's it. actually the exact opposite of how dictionaries are written. I know because I have a degree in it. Dictionaries are written like this: A dictionary publishing company sends teams out to survey people. And by that, I mean they go out into the world and listen to how people talk. They hang out in bars, restaurants, schools and grocery stores; they listen and observe our daily conversations. And then write large amounts of notes; not just about what words are used, but how they are used.
So when you search for the word "car" (the subject of Jaguar's beef), you get this from Merriam-Webster:
Times change, so do words
This means that people use "car" in reference to a vehicle moving on wheels, much more frequently than to describe the part of an airship or balloon. Now here's the real interesting thing and why Jaguar is so grateful about it. The definition of a word changes over time based on how people use it. If Jaguar wants the Oxford English Dictionary to change its definition of car, it needs to get people to change the way they use that word.
Try this: Go get an old dictionary, something written from the 1930s, and look up the word gay. Search for the word fag. And my favorite, look up the word computer. In the language of the time, these words meant happy and joyful; a bundle of burn sticks; and a person employed to perform artillery calculations.
They say the I-PACE, Jaguar's all-electric SUV, isn't yet defined as a 'car' it can carry people; and it has two front wheels and two rear wheels. The OED defines a car as: “a road vehicle propelled by an engine (usually an internal combustion engine) designed to carry a driver and a small number of passengers, and usually having two front wheels and two rear wheels, in particular. for private, commercial or leisure use. »
The most recent or second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was published in 1989. There were no electric cars then. Yes, they are working on a new updated OED which they hope to complete by (and I'm not joking here) 2037. Writing the definitive reference book for the English language is not something you do du jour on the next day. The current OED provides the meaning, history and pronunciation of some 600,000 words. By the time the third edition comes out, I'm sure the common definition of "car" will fit the I-PACE.
The chassis layout of the 2019 Jaguar I-PACE. Photo: Jaguar Land Rover.
But hey, want to know something really cool about the Oxford English Dictionary? Guess who wrote it? And by “wrote it,” I mean who was the editor in charge of putting together the entire, twenty volumes, 21,730 pages, 137.72 books. oxford english dictionary? JRR Tolkien. The guy who wrote The Lord of the Rings; composed of two kinds of Elvish; the language of the Dwarves, the language of the Orcs, and the language of Mordor from scratch. This guy.
The Lord of the Rings was for children, the Oxford English Dictionary was his work. If you have $1,000 spare and 20 linear feet of reinforced storage, I highly recommend getting the whole set. Jaguar could have used it, right?
Tony Borroz has spent his whole life racing vintage cars and sports cars. He is the author of
Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle.
Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.