Agfa, Saab and Honda

Saab 17
Entering service with the Flygvapen in 1941, the Saab-17 was notable for the robust construction that has since been a feature of the company's designs, and the type remained in service until 1948. After World War II 47 were delivered to the Ethiopian air force. Presumably the Ethopians did not require the snow skis.
Ever wonder how the names Agfa or Saab or Honda were derived? Here are the answers, and a few more:

Why did they call it Adobe? Isn’t that a kind of mud brick? The computer graphics company was named after the river Adobe Creek, which flowed behind the house of the founders John Warnock and Chuck Geschke.

1935 FiatNow for the cars:

Fiat: an abbreviation of Fabbrica Ivalley Automobili Torino (Italian: Italian Auto Factory Turin). Photo, right: a 1935 Fiat built for racing.

SEAT: Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo (Spanish for “Spanish passenger car society”)

Alfa: Anomina Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (Italian: Lombardy Automobile Factory)

AUDI: To my surprise, not an abbreviation or an acronym: its precursor was named Auto Union, an amalgamation of several previously disparate German automobile manufacturers including DAF and others. I had guessed that AUDI meant something like (my German is clumsy) Autowerke Union Deutsche Industrien. No. The manufacturer August Horch left his original company “Horch” after five years, but wanted to go on making motor cars. He chose the new name “Audi” after the Latin translation of his name (Horch: imperative singular for “hearing”, as in “Now hear this!”).

BMW: Bayrische Motoren werke

Adler motorbike
Honda: means “eagle”, after the name of the founder Soichiro Honda. “Adler” (typewriters) also means eagle, but in German. Adler successfully produced cars and motor-bikes, but after World War II the Adler company made a decision not to resume automobile construction. Motorcycle production resumed in 1949 and continued for 8 years leading to the production of the MB 250S. Increasingly, Adler focused on the manufacture of office equipment. The company associated with Triumph to form Triumph-Adler, and was taken over by Grundig in 1957, later by Olivetti.

Quaintly, a Korean motor cycle c. 2010, broadly imitative of the Harley-Davidson marque, is the the Hyosung Aquila GV650. “Aquila” is Italian for “eagle”. The double-headed eagle is a common symbol in heraldry and vexillology, most commonly associated with the Holy Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, Imperial Russia, and Austria from 1934 to 1938. Here’s my poem (a reverse haibun, as it happens) «Adler, Honda & Co» from the late 1980s:

It’s tête-à-tête time
for the fledgelings, long dormant
under winter’s mantle, now
cultivating their wits and basking
in a shabby performer’s lack
of polish (likewise these politicos;
no hindrance to the leader).
Past tense, please – loose chat sprouted
to the blare of the gangster’s dander,
as these gifted breathers chuckled.
Are you part of the senior set? Ah,
their drudge domain pitches and topples;
‘I struggle and win,’ grins the burnt-out
coma case – but he’s nodding again,
scoring zero. Blacklist index, old soldiers
dozing, thievery – looming astride
the memory barrier, high-strung
like a second-rank officer, in
a narration that wanders among truck routes
the scholar rehearsed his tactics.

Adler typewriter

Hmmm, tails, looks like this batch of stuff – illuminate my lawmaker buddy, pronto, lamps on in the blues domain – greed network foray event, watch that uniform travesty – no brass, no clout, but it makes an amiable evening seem like Brazen Soldier Green Asylum neophyte reef old pal – smoky torch glow lights up the sunken ramp that slopes down through the water wavering in the shadows to the steel vault door fathoms deep – baleful archive strong­box mono­graph stamped with the double eagle

Saab: 1937 as Svenska Aeroplan Aktie Bolaget (Swedish Airplane Company Limited). Sadly, Saab is now no more. For the sale of their airplanes to the Ethopians, see the photo at the top of this post.

Agfa: comes from “Aktien Gesellschaft für Anilinfabrikation “. The development and manufacture of aniline dyes, derived from coal tar, quickly became a billion dollar business, and is one of the great success stories of nineteenth-century science.

BASF: in former times, Badische Anilin and Soda Fabrik (aniline dyes again, with soda added: soda is used for glass processing). Soda and aniline dyes were the first products of BASF.

Esso: after the initials S.O. (Standard Oil of New Jersey). Today the company is known as ExxonMobil.

KLM: from Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij (Netherlands for “royal aviation society”)

QANTAS: Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Services. But you knew that, didn’t you?

Thanks to:

One Reply to “Agfa, Saab and Honda”

  1. I recall a story that went around that claimed ESSO meant “bad gas” in, I think, Japanese. EXXON was (in the story) was determined by a group of linguists to mean nothing–a semantically neutral term–or, at least, be noxious to no one.

Comments are closed.