Jaguar wants to literally redefine what ‘car’ means

Jaguar wants to literally redefine what 'car' means

What’s the biggest difference between the Jaguar I-Pace and other EVs? The fact that it’s actually fun to drive on a winding road or, say, a race track like this.

Did you know that the Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries (different entities published by Oxford University Press) both define the “car” as something powered by an internal combustion engine?

The Oxford English Dictionary – the principal historical dictionary of the English language – defines a car as “a road vehicle powered by a motor (usually an internal combustion engine) designed to carry a driver and a small number of passengers, and usually having two front and two rear wheels, esp. for private, commercial, or leisure use.”

While the current definition of a car on Oxford – a collection of dictionary websites also produced by Oxford University Press, but with a focus on modern language and current definitions – gets even more blatantly ICEy and defines a car as “a road vehicle, typically with four wheels, powered by an internal combustion engine and able to carry a small number of people.”

This bothers Jaguar – a quintessentially English carmaker ( despite its current ownership ) – because that it means its I-Pace EV isn’t technically a car according to the preeminent, quintessentially English definition.

After all, the Oxford English Dictionary is the accepted authority on the English language being, as Jaguar calls it, an “unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of 600,000 words – past and present – from across the English-speaking world.”

To remedy the situation, Jaguar has submitted a formal application to the Oxford English Dictionary and to have the definitions updated to include additional powertrains, including electric motors. Which makes a lot of sense, really, given the way cars are actually heading.

David Browne (no, not that one . Or that one, either ), head of Jaguar Land Rover’s naming committee, says: “A lot of time and thought is put into the name of any new vehicle or technology to ensure it is consumer friendly, so it’s surprising to see that the definition of the car is a little outdated.”

“We are therefore inviting the Oxford English Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionaries to update its online classification to reflect the shift from traditional internal combustion engines towards more sustainable powertrains.”

To be completely fair, however, the Oxford English Dictionary does say usually an internal combustion engine, while a lot of other print and online dictionaries – as well as that standard repository for all knowledge and wisdom called Wikipedia – define “car” in broader terms that are either more general about a power source, or simply don’t allude to a specific form of propulsion.

But it is odd that the accepted authority is stuck in the past. Besides, it’s also a great promotional opportunity that Jaguar has cleverly seized upon.

Jaguar Land Rover New Zealand general manager Steve Kenchington agrees, saying the largely symbolic campaign is designed to raise public awareness of how rapidly automotive technology and design is changing.

“While the concept of our understanding of how a car operates has remained consistent for generations, we are now entering a period of rapid evolution in the industry – which will fundamentally change the way we use our vehicles.

“In addition to the launch of EVs, the next decade will see the introduction of increasingly autonomous vehicles – which will also challenge our definition of driving.

“The future is clearly moving towards electric vehicles, and Jaguar Land Rover is working to ensure that consumer awareness around new automotive designs and innovation is kept at a level that will ensure public acceptance of the new technologies.”

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