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October 18, 2005

"Scirocco" Blows "Rivo" Away

VW Concept Car500 I came across the recent article in about Volkswagen wanting to return its Scirocco in 2008.

Volkswagen's Concept R coupe doesn't look at all like the Scirocco of the 1980s, which was a modestly sporty wedge-shaped hatchback. The Concept R looks, actually, like a knock-off of the Porsche Boxster or the BMW Z4, and therefore far more deserving of the name "Scirocco" than the earlier model.

scirocco.jpgWhat exactly is a scirocco, besides a once-and-future Volkswagen? It's an alternative spelling of "sirocco," which comes from the Arabic sharuq ("east") and means a hot desert wind out of the Sahara, which by the time it hits the Mediterranean and translates itself into polysyllabic Italian has also picked up plenty of moisture. As a wind, it can be oppressive, but as a name for a sports car, it's wonderful.

Of course, any Italian name rolls -- that's the beauty of a language where almost every word ends in a vowel. But "scirocco" is also onomatopoetic, with the initial "shhh" sound echoing the wind -- which in this case will be the wind of passage as the car whips past you on the Autobahn. It sounds fast.

The proposed alternate name for this car, Rivo, just doesn't have the romance, never mind the sexiness, of "Scirocco." I could imagine some play on the initial R, á la the Motorola ROKR and RAZR, if they were calling it the Rive (as in "arrive" or the Rive Gauche), but Rivo? Not in Francophone Canada, please: RIVO is the Réseau d'Intervention Auprès des Personnes Ayant Subi la Violence Organisée, and whatever claims one makes for a coupe, it's difficult to picture it as an agency designed to help the victims of organized crime. In Italian, Rivo means "stream," which conjures up a pleasant ambling along, except perhaps during snowmelt in the Alps.

The only positive aspect of the name Rivo for this car is that a stream is cooling and the wind off the desert is stifling. But if you were a sports car, which one would you rather be?

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Posted by Diane Prange at October 18, 2005 7:00 AM
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