enertia-phonetic

Watch out! There’s a new electric motorcycle in town. It’s the Enertia, from Brammo. Yes, like the word inertia, but with an E, which The Name Inspector supposes stands for electric. So, electric + inertia.

Inertia. Kind of an unusual word choice for a motorcycle, don’t you think? Inertia, as we all remember from physics class, is the tendency of a physical object to stay at rest or, if it’s in motion, to maintain direction and velocity until it’s acted upon by an external force. If you imagine a motorcycle in motion, you can think of inertia as a synonym for momentum: this thing will keep on going–just try to stop it! That seems to be what Brammo is going for. On the Enertia website they use the slogan “Enertia is Momentum for Change”.

The Name Inspector is willing to wager, however, that this is not the first idea that will pop into most people’s minds. They’ll think of the word inertia as it’s used in the everyday world, where it means, as the Merriam-Webster online dictionary puts it, “indisposition to motion, exertion, or change: INERTNESS”.

Inertia. Inertness. Stillness. Just sitting there. Not going anywhere. No energy or motivation. Lying on the couch, not doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

It’s actually hard to think of another name that so clearly communicates exactly the wrong message. Let’s face it, people are going to be skeptical about an electric motorcycle. They’re going to be concerned that it just won’t have enough oomph. Putting the word inertia in their minds isn’t going to help with that. The Name Inspector loves this quote from an otherwise rather positive review of the Enertia: “I cannot think of a more stupid name for a motorbike. I mean my bike cannot get over 35mph but because it is called the Ruckus I always feel something exciting might happen.”

Maybe the name Enertia is part of a daring, counterintuitive marketing concept. This is the motorcycle for people who don’t really like motorcycles! Or any form of transportation, or movement, really. Don’t worry, it’s electric. It only goes 51 mph, for Pete’s sake–just hop on! No, actually, get on carefully, holding on tight to the handlebars–but first make sure your helmet straps are properly adjusted. Now are you ready for the ride of your life? No? Good–don’t get too excited. This is really just a moped without the pedals–a noped. OK, ride carefully, and you’ll get there eventually if your battery doesn’t run out.

There. The Name Inspector just had to get that sarcastic little tirade out of his system. But it may not be far from the truth. In a 2007 interview for the Portland Tribune, Brammo design director Brian Wismann said the Enertia “was designed to appeal to somebody like me who has always loved motorcycles but perhaps was too intimidated to go out and buy one”. He also said it was made to be “really inviting to sit on”. Like a cool, zippy armchair!

5 Responses to “Enertia: Can Brammo move product with this name?”

  1. on 15 Jul 2009 at 7:49 am john farris

    Funny stuff. Happy to provide actual facts about the Enertia (i.e. top speed is 60mph). And, for the record, Brian now rides through the mountain roads around Ashland, Oregon on his Ducati Monster.

  2. on 15 Jul 2009 at 9:02 am The Name Inspector

    Hi John, thanks for stopping by and being a good sport. The Enertia actually looks pretty cool–I just don’t like the name (which is my job!). Feel free to send along any other facts about the bike that you think might be of interest.

  3. on 24 Jul 2009 at 3:41 pm mike

    Right on. Those with a highly refined editorial cynicism might also wonder, if only briefly, whether the company doesn’t even know how to spell “inertia,” oops.

    Maybe the en- prefix in Enertia is supposed to invoke (envoke?) “energy,” but, perhaps already influenced (enfluenced?) by the connotation of inertness, I was just as inclined to read into it the idea of “enervating.”

    But then, that might be the intention (entention?), as you say: it’s about the opposite of excitement, right? Haha.

  4. on 02 Aug 2009 at 6:24 am Peter

    NI, I agree completely. Great example of a name that flies in the face of common sense. Goofy.

  5. on 25 Oct 2009 at 7:02 pm turtlesleap

    Didn’t Chevrolet have trouble selling the Nova in Latin American countries? :)

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