Marianne Moore’s Utopian Turtletop

Ford EdselIn the mid-fifties the newly-public Ford Motor Company sought a name for its soon-to-be-released experimental car, known in its design stage as the E-car. After in-house marketers came up with 300-odd names which were felt to be embarrassing in their pedestrianism, the company approached Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Marianne Moore, an icon of the popular culture, known as much for her wild passion for baseball and boxing as for her poetry…

What Ford wanted was a car name that “flashes a dramatically desirable picture in people’s minds,” from a woman who seemed to know mainstream America. What they got was “Anticipator,” “Thunder Crester,” “Pastelogram,” “Intelligent Whale,” “The Resilient Bullet,” “Mongoose Civique,” “Andante con Moto,” “Varsity Stroke” and then, as her very last try for the name magic, “Utopian Turtletop.”

Understandably disappointed by Moore’s ideas, the company hired a marketing firm. When the agency forwarded a list of 18,000 possible names, it fell upon corporate executives to choose the best among them for final consideration. Every day an appointed panel of executives would assemble in an appointed projection room to watch as thousands of names were flashed across a screen in six-inch high letters, to oblivion unless someone shouted, “Stop!” and gave reasons for his enthusiasm.

None of the final contenders, neither “Corsair” nor “Citation” nor “Ranger” nor “Pacer,” made the grade in the end, and Ford returned to its earlier idea — one that had been rejected for years by the Ford family — and named the car after company scion, Edsel Ford.

Of course, the Edsel was a spectacular failure on many levels, marketing most notably. Later consumer surveys revealed that the public strongly disliked the name, associating it with Edson tractors, dead cells (batteries) and weasels.

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2 Responses to Marianne Moore’s Utopian Turtletop

  1. Avatar jonah says:

    That and the grill looks like …

    Well, it’s the exact opposite of a Phallic Symbol, which every good car manufacturer knows is the only sure imagery guaranteed to sell the beasts.

    Next question is, since Edsel was Henry’s son, why the HELL did Henry name the poor kid EDSEL in the first place?

    Is the entire family Demon Seed or just the patriarchy?

  2. dwayne schneider dwayne schneider says:

    I’d prefer to ride a vagina than a phallus, but not one named Ed.

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