Letters From Readers - A Matter of Nomenclature, March 1975

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Sir,

I noticed with interest the question of the definition of a limousine, in December issue’s account of the BMW carrying that title.

Whilst your own observations are quite acceptable to me, I would like to draw your attention to the shades of difference in meaning acquired by the same word when it is adopted by different languages.

As BMW officially describe the car as a limousine, then perhaps the tag should assume the German definition of the word, which, according to “der Spiach Brockhaus”, is a passenger car enclosed on all sides, with a fixed/hard top. Admittedly, this publication is a general dictionary, but some real effort has been made to define words accurately as accompanying illustrations show different types of vehicle, with an unmistakeable drawing of a VW Beetle (!) depicting “die limousine”.

Hence, a German buyer could well be getting what he expected with this BMW.

As a matter of interest, people often believe that German is very much like English, but I have found differences in other similar sounding words, which then require care in use, e.g. Schellfisch means haddock, Gymnasium means high school.

However, I also subscribe to your comments in earlier articles regarding the misuse of other descriptions, like GT, within our own language, but believe that the constant use of any word in a context for which it was not originally intended does in fact result with the definition being re-written to suit the generally accepted meaning.

Halifax R. DOBSON

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