Monday, 1 June 2009

Londonski Voksal

Professor Kevin Morley of the University of Warwick on why GM Europe's new Russian-backed owners will want to lose the Vauxhall brand:

“No one in Russia knows what a Vauxhall is,” he told The Times. “I’m sure we’ll see Vauxhall the brand disappear soon after the deal. Vauxhalls in the UK will sell here as Opels.”

Prof Morley can't be expected to know that the Russian word for railway station, 'Voksal', is derived from Vauxhall. In the usual confusion, a 19th century Russian visitor (in some versions of the story it was the Tsar) asked, 'What's that?' when he noticed an unfamiliar building straddling the railway track. 'Vauxhall' came the answer. And a misnomer was born.

So Russians know perfectly well what a Vauxhall is. A railway station. Doesn't help its chances though does it?

9 comments:

Gadjo Dilo said...

No, not really. And there's people over here (gypsies, I'd probably have to add) calling their baby girls Mercedes, but after the German car, not the Spanish girl's name.

worm said...

what about the aussies and their Holdens?

Gaw said...

Sorry worm, haven't heard of that one.

Bunny Smedley said...

Weirdly fascinating insight - thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have heard this story before, but I am not sure that it is right. My Russian teacher, who also doubles up as a linguist, has never heard this story. She thinks the word has German origins - Volks hall.

Jimmy

Gaw said...

Gadj: Do they have sisters called Portia, sorry, Porsche?

Worm: The only thing I can say is: wasn't Holden a West Indian bowler not Australian? Sorry.

Bunny: It's a pleasure, Bunny. I guess the Rod and Pop post has proven too depressing to write. I feel a bit bad that I wrote my post without referring to the curatorial blind spot. But I think sometimes one gets so used to this avoidance of the crimes of Bolsheviks that you stop noticing yourself.

Jimmy: Why let the facts get in the way of a good story? But I did try to check out this old chestnut on the web and there seemed to be a general acknowledgement that the word did come from the UK. However, there were disputes about the derivation (a trip by the Tsar or some Imperial functionaries).

Don't forget there was a famous kink in the otherwise straight Moscow to St Petersburg railway because of a notch in the Tsar's ruler...

Brit said...

I've always like the idea of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. Naked flames, flowing wine, shameless strumpets, Handel's fireworks music, strange masks. That's how to do binge-drinking.

Gaw said...

Brit: I think there were some scenes in the last TV-adaptation of Vanity Fair set in a pleasure garden - Vauxhall or Sadlers Wells, I can't remember. The Indian influence of the era was emphasised: nabobs, silks, swirlyness and...curry! With this last element included, I agree. An unbeatable combo.

Brit said...

Yes that was Vauxhall I'm pretty sure. Vanity Fair was a great adaptation.