I was at a gas station a year or two ago when I noticed a guy in a Chevy Silverado with his daughter a few pumps over – his little girl was pointing eagerly at my car. She was maybe nine years old – although I admit I’m not the best at judging the age of children, so that’s just my best guess. As I started fueling, they had finished up and started over toward me. He was rubbing his chin as he stared at my modified Cayman, and she was jumping up and down like she just saw a bunny.
“What kind of car is that?” he inquired as they got closer. I was rather proud of my Porsche, and I never minded the attention. Perfect strangers give you the thumbs-up. Neighborhood kids will race you to the corner on their bikes, and you’ll always get the two-finger salute from other Porsche drivers when you cross paths. Like walking an alligator in the park, I’d come to expect interaction from strangers. It comes with the territory – part of owning a Porsche.
Funny though, I always hesitate in answering the make-and-model question; just long enough for it to be awkward. “It’s a Porsche Cayman,” carefully annunciating Porsche-uh. I suddenly felt like I was speaking with an air of aristocracy – as though I were addressing the Queen. And truck-guy backed up a little like I insulted his ancestry.
I could have avoided the whole gaffe by simply referring to the model alone – disowning its family heritage for the sake of the ensuing discussion. Don’t get me wrong, he was a perfectly pleasant guy with a delightful little girl, and there was absolutely no reason why I should have felt embarrassed. But somehow the exchange was still awkward – I shifted my weight on my feet like I was asking out the Prom Queen.
Yes, I own and drive a Porsche – with no apology (but apparently some excuses). I thought of an unsolicited response such as, “I’ve been saving for this car since I was 13” or “My other car is a Hyundai Accent” (as if that mattered). I pronounce Porsche with a lift at the end because that’s the guy’s name and also how it’s referred to over there in Germany where it was born. The way I look at it, if you introduce yourself to someone as “William”, it’s presumptuous for them to call you Bill.
The Correct Pronunciation of Porsche
Still, I feel like there’s a stigma with Porsche, especially surrounding the correct pronunciation. To the general public here in the states, the Americanized version is not only accepted, but preferred. I don’t feel like BMW, Audi or Mercedes shares in the same perception even though they are all regional neighbors. And I’m not sure how I otherwise reconcile my discomfort.
For some reason, the public often associates Porsche with the Grey Poupon and Polo crowd. With full disclosure, I was raised on Mustangs and Camaros – never thought I’d end up driving any kind of Porsche. My first car cost me a whopping $175, and I continue to have a car payment to this day. I think I’m a down-to-earth kind of guy. Yet I continue with this defensive posture.
I suppose I shouldn’t let it bother me. Who cares, right? And maybe I’m imagining some of these responses (I really don’t think I am). I suppose other brands enjoy a similar reaction, but Bentley and Ferrari cost a bundle more than most Porsche models, so don’t they at least deserve some negative press?
None of these assumptions are inherently true of course, but I’d like to dispel the myth anyway. I love my Porsche. I like doing things with it, in it and about it. And I thought when I finally traded in my Cayman on a Macan S that these comments would subside. But to my joint dismay and delight, it’s made little difference.
I don’t have hundred dollar bills falling out of my pockets, my jeans are Wrangler and my leather jacket isn’t even real leather. I appreciate cars of all kinds. American muscle, foreign, and domestic – and I don’t discriminate much. So the next time I pronounce Porsche out loud, I will do so with the accompanying accent. And it’ll still feel weird.