When Is A Car Not A Car?

Wed 14th Aug 2019

A classic British car institution is calling on another historic English organisation to get with the times and update their definition of what makes a car.

While the Jaguar motor brand is renowned for producing some of the most famous and iconic cars of the last seventy years, their more recent work has gained them plenty of new fans due to their work in the field of electric vehicles. Jaguar’s all-electric I-PACE has won a host of global motoring awards over the past 12 months, with the zero-emission SUV most recently named 2019 World Car of the Year at the New York Motor Show.

However, according to the definition of a car in the Oxford English Dictionary, the I-PACE is not a car at all! According to the OED a car is ‘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’.

A tweet published on Jaguar UK’s Twitter feed this week asked the question ‘We’ve rewritten the rules. Can we now rewrite the dictionary?’

David Browne, head of Jaguar Land Rover’s naming committee, said: “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or technology to ensure it is consumer friendly, so it’s surprising to see that the definition of the car is a little outdated.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 their online classifications to reflect the shift from traditional internal combustion engines towards more sustainable powertrains.”

A spokesperson for the Oxford University Press told the Press Association: “We appreciate the interest and commitment that Jaguar have shown to accurately recording the English language. Our lexicographers value suggestions such as these.

“The Oxford Dictionaries team work to reflect, rather than dictate, the way in which words are used and defined. All of our dictionaries are based on a solid body of evidence which comes from a huge range of sources and is gathered over a sustained period of time. Suggestions and feedback are a valuable part of this but form just one aspect of the work that goes into maintaining our dictionaries.”