~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Goose By Any Other Name

(photos via the Moto Guzzi web site)

There's an old joke about a Spaniard, a Frenchman, and a German instructing an American about who's language is the most beautiful. The Spaniard says "Consider the word 'butterfly', in Spanish it is 'mariposa'" and he rolls the word beautifully off his tongue. The Frenchman sniffs and says "Yez, bot in een French eet iz e-ven more beauteeful, eet iz 'papillon' and he pronounces the word even more elegantly than the Spaniard. The German harrumphs and glares at the other three and says "And vat iz wrong mit da vord 'Schmetterling'?"

Regardless of what you call them, butterflies are one of God's more entertaining inventions and lots of nice motorcycles are great bikes but sadly get tagged with odd names or at least odd model names. Some are named for their company founders like Honda, some are merely initials like BMW or KTM. I have never read a definitive answer on how Aprilia got it's name but it's a lovely word unlike Ducati which sounds like a bit like an Italian food made from waterfowl.

My all time favorite bike name is the Scott "Flying Squirrel" from early in the last century. It appeals to my sense of the absurd. I would love to have heard the discussion at the Scott factory over selecting that name. No doubt they were serious about the bike, it was advanced for it's time, the first water cooled 2-stroke production bike, but really, the "Flying Squirrel"?

A few current odd model names from various manufacturers: "Rune" (sounds to much like "ruin") for the Honda ego-cruiser, "Burgman" for the Suzuki maxi-scooter (name your scooter after an eccentric Euro movie producer?) and of course the "Caponord" from Aprilia. Aprilia could be forgiven for the Caponord as it means "Cape North" which is a remote location in Norway and the sort of place to which one might ride and adventure touring bike like the Caponord. The Caponord name does get a lot of questions when people ask "What is it?" Just being an Aprilia throws them off enough; explaining to an English speaking person that Caponord is Italian for a place in Norway seems like too much trouble.

BMW has done some odd names also, like the BMW R100 R Mystik. BMW did a bike a few years ago with the word "BOXER" emblazoned across the tank. It meant something to a few folks who love opposed twin engines but I'm sure it just looked odd if not surly to most people. "Are you a boxer" "No." Do you like boxer dogs?" "No" "Do you work in a warehouse or shipping department?" "No." I would get tired of the explanations quickly. Caponord has been enough with which to deal.

Royal Enfield long ago appealed to a man's true inner spirit with the Enfield Bullet Machismo 350. Nothing like the thundering machismo power of a 350cc bike to boost the libido. I like it, it makes as much a statement of studliness as Honda's 250cc Rebel.

Recently Moto Guzzi, the venerable Italian company owned by Aprilia and now Piaggio, has announced their new sport touring model, the Norge 1200. The bike is very nice looking, comes with GPS built in, and in fact would look really wonderful in my garage if the ST1300 wasn't already occupying a place there. Owning a couple of Aprilia has given me a taste for Italian machines that will not soon abate.

Lovely bike! If you want something styled right give the project to the Italians.

My only hang up with the Norge 1200 is the name. I know, sometimes I'm shallow. But you see "Norge" is also a brand of refrigerator here in the US and was quite popular when I was growing up in the 1950s and '60s. The name is fixed in my memory as a kitchen appliance and was even enough of a fixture in the American mind to be used as part of a sketch in a Saturday Night Live TV episode long ago.

Another view of a machine infinitely more desirable than a refrigerator:

I love the look of the Moto Guzzi Norge 1200, it's modern, it's Italian, it's a V-twin, it's Italian, but I'm not sure I could ever keep a straight face telling someone what it is when they ask. I'd forever be thinking of Dan Akroyd as the "Norge repairman" bending over to pick up a refrigerator and showing us more than we needed to see of his Cape del sud. Let us hope that Moto Guzzi can find a better name if or when the Norge 1200 comes to the USA.


Unknown said...

The Suzuki scooter / bike is actually a Burgman and not a Bergman... but then again... what is a "Burgman"? I know that the German word for 'castle' is 'Burg'... but still... not any closer to an answer. For a truly German naming it'd be: Burgmann with a double 'n' - possibly meaning: castle-man.

Doug Klassen said...

Ah, you are correct about the Suzuki spelling. I can't claim much expertise on scooters and the spell checker apparently has even less knowledge of them.

As for the word "castle," in German it is SchloƟ with that funny character on the end pronounced as a double s.

Unknown said...

Burg / Schloss, I think they both = castle. I am completely sober at the time of typing this comment - regretfully my German improves only during the month of Oktober. Great! - I'd completely forgotten about 'schloss' - as another word for castle. So many options. Then again 'Schlossman' would be REALLY strange sounding.

stu_o said...

Hey there, Doug.
I agree with your comments about the Norge's looks - it's beautiful. I also agree about the name. Perhaps a follow-on model will be named the Kelvinator? The Tom Tom is standard equipment - on the top trim line. There are several trim lines ranging in price from $16,500 to $19,500 (UK prices). The basic Norge doesn't have the GPS or even a set of hard cases.

Hopefully, the Norge will be ultra-reliable, as our experience with the Italian concept of parts support (via Caponord ownership) may make purchasing a Norge an act of sado-masochism.


Stu Oltman
Sr. Tech Editor
Wing World Magazine

Anonymous said...

You probably know this already. But I didn't catch it in your text above. Norge is also the Norwegian name for Norway. So not just a fridge, but a country as well...

Like your blog Doug!

Anonymous said...

Any opinions Norge's fairing stop the rain?

I am looking for a touring/sport/commuter with a full fairing that will stop the rain.

Many years ago I rode my 1970 Kawasaki 500 triple all day in the rain up the FL coast with a full Vetter fairing. I also had a full Vetter on my 1974 BMW 900. If I remember right, I was kept fairly free of rain, as long as I kept the bikes moving.

I use my present ride for commuting many times, not just weekend fair weather riding. I would like to keep my Honda VT1100C cruiser but I cannot find a suitable fairing for it.

Doug Klassen said...

No idea on how well the fairing works. I sat on a Norge some months ago and was disappointed with the basic ergonomics. I'm not real tall and the bike still felt cramped to me.

Want a bike with a nice fairing? Poke around a look for a nice clean Kawasaki Concours 1000 or most any touring edition (RT models) of a BMW.

Regardless of what you get, you'll wide up fiddling with things like the windshield to get it to suit your height and riding style.


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