Enthusiasts of one particular car make are really only certain of three things: their chosen brand is the best, the people who prefer some other brand are drooling sub-morons, and there’s no way in hell they’d ever drive a Saturn. Every brand has its share of the aforementioned drooling morons, but is there any way to tell who has the most?
There just might be, and it’s simpler than you’d think. This method isn’t exactly the most rigorous, strictly scientific method, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t at least an interesting concept. The essence of this quantitative-moron-evaluation system is based on a surprisingly common misspelling of the word “bumper.”
I can’t take credit for this theory or these results. A Jalopnik reader named Jason Barker developed the system and ran the initial tests, then provided me with the results. Here’s what he did: he searched Google using this search criteria:
[car company name] + “bumber”
The key, of course, is the non-word “bumber.” I didn’t realize this, but it is a truly alarmingly common misspelling of “bumper.” It’s so common people are asking sources on the web what the words “bumber” and “bumber sticker” means, because they’ve seen it used so often that they can’t believe it’s just a misspelling of “bumper.”
This site estimates that at least 3% of people searching for “bumper sticker” use “bumber sticker.” That’s a lot of people.
And, importantly, “bumber” isn’t a simple typo like “teh” or “pron.” Look at your keyboard – the ‘B’ and ‘P’ keys aren’t anywhere near one another. If someone is typing “bumber,” it seems to be intentional.
How this happens, I have no idea. Have they never seen the word “bumper” in print? I mean, it’s not like “bumper” is such an exotic car part term; it’s named exactly after what it does: bump. Really, “bumper” is an incredibly simple, almost childish name for something, like if we called the accelerator pedal the “goer” or the headlights the “lighters.”
It also doesn’t seem to be a word in any major language, so proficiency in English doesn’t seem to be a huge factor, though it may well be at play. The ‘B’ and ‘P’ sounds are both stop consonants, or plosives, where the lips close to stop airflow. The big difference is that ‘b’ is vocalized and ‘p’ is not (but it is aspirated), and in practice the two sounds are fairly distinct.
I mean, how often do English speakers confuse ‘lumber’ with ‘lumper?’ Or, bat/pat, or nap/nab or whatever? ‘Bumber’ is weird, right?
So, yeah, I get why Mr. Barker would equate the usage of “bumber” with someone who is, um, maybe not the brightest bulb in the taillight.
So, here’s the results, in handy chart form:
... and here’s the numbers:
Land Rover 57,700
Wow. I’ll admit, as a lifelong Beetle owner, I’m pretty mortified to see Volkswagen at the top of that list, and by such a significant margin. 359,000 results? Jeezis.
I am quite surprised to see longtime professor’s car Saab sixth with 240,000. It’s also interesting to see that class and wealth don’t seem to be as much of a factor as you’d think, with Rolls-Royce getting more results than Toyota, and Mercedes-Benz in a near dead heat with Kia.
Of course, a lot of those Rolls-Royce results could be non-Rolls owners seeking a Rolls-Royce-like ‘bumber’ for their shitbox; I’m just not sure. I also got some pretty different results when I tried these same searches, so we should accept this as just one dataset, and determined researchers should give it a try on their own.
I am happy to say that a search of Jalopnik only turned up 14 “bumbers,” which is a relief.
Bumber. Maybe it’s not the most exhaustive metric to evaluate auto-enthusiast stupidity, but I hope that if I ever refer to the chrome bars at either end of my car as “bumbers,” it’s because I’ve just received either a lightning strike or a 2x4 to the face.