As American As Good Ol’ Chevy

Louis_Chevrolet_in_1914

The Once and Future American

 

If you were to pick off the top of your head the “most American” brand of the 20th century, what would you pick? Out of 100 people I bet you’d get a fair percentage who would say “Chevrolet”. And yet has there ever been a more French brand name? Coming from the name of one of the founders, Louis Chevrolet was able to propel the brand to first place over the Ford Model T in 1929, and in the process one presumes keep his old pal Bill Durant from putting the Durant Motor Car Company into our minds as the brand that stands “like a rock”. Besides, Chevy is so much catchier than Duree (Duro? Dura? Rant?).

Chevrolet, the man, isn’t French, as it turns out. Mr LC was a Swiss race car driver. And in one of those delightful synergies of brand name building, the name is wonderfully suggestive of its marque — a chevron — although internally the company probably calls it “the bowtie”. John McPhee goes so far as to suggest, in his book La Place de la Concorde Suisse, that the logo is based on a Swiss Cross. So take your pick.

But as a family name, Chevrolet does in fact descend from the French. And so that marvelous pronunciation that every American (indeed every global citizen in range of a television) knows by heart, from sea to shining sea (is there a single person, even a child, one can imagine saying “chev-ro-lette”?). Preparing us all to correctly say such common words as duvet, beret, cabaret, filet, croquet, ricochet? Marvelous.

However, the advisability of proposing an overtly French brand name to your American client in our modern times? Unless it’s a French-themed product, no. Nyet. Otherwise, good luck. You’ll need an amulet. Or kismet.

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