By now, we know that there are more accurate ways to pronounce the names of Japanese automakers than the ones that we dumb Americans have been using. Mazda, for instance, is pronounced “Matsuda” in Japan. But did you know that there are also very fascinating historical and cultural reasons behind some of these names?
YouTuber CZeroMedia uploaded a video today that not only explores the correct pronunciation of Japanese brands in their home country, but also gives some very interesting cultural context as well.
Even though Toyota is named after company founder, Kiichiro Toyoda, it’s written as Toyota in Katakana. This is because to write Toyoda, it takes 10 strokes. The symbol for the number 10 in Japanese kanji is a cross (十), which symbolizes a crossroad and, by extension, indecision.
Toyoda didn’t want his company to be associated with indecision, so the writing was altered slightly and brought down to eight strokes instead, a much more fortuitous number in East Asian culture.
Datsun started out as a car produced by a company called Kaishinsha Motorcar Works. In 1914, it was making these little, quick and agile cars. Three of its designers put their initials together to create the acronym D.A.T. In Japanese, “dat” means “to dash off like a startled rabbit,” which was an appropriate name for the kind of cars they were making.
Eventually, after some company changes, the name became “Datson” to mean “son of Dat.” A little while later, the “son” became “sun” because in Japanese, “son” means “loss.”
CZero also discusses Honda, Acura, Lexus, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Mugen. You should check it out.