Call Me Blonde, What’s Really In a Motorcycle Name?

Recently I was watching a very interesting program on the National Geographic channel about martial arts and the true master forms of the various disciplines. The show then progressed to the level of which weapons were the most effective, the Nunchakus, spears and swords. When discussing swords, it stated that the “Katana” was the preferred and most effective sword of martial arts warriors. In fact the Katana emerged in the sixteenth century as a curved, single-edged weapon of the Samurai warrior class in Japan. Katana to me means motorcycle, in fact I once owned one when I lived in The Netherlands. It was a popular Suzuki model released in 1988.  But this was a moment of discovery for me.  I now understood the association of the name – hence why this blog begins with  –  call me blonde.

What’s Really In a Motorcycle Name? - Blog Vicki Gray - Motoressing
What’s Really In a Motorcycle Name?

Yet honestly, I can’t image I’m alone am I?  We hear a name, we use it, asking no questions.   When manufacturers bring out their new models, we get all the technical info and eventually the test ride results, but no one ever says “it was named after the great Japanese Samurai warrior sword-the Katana”. I suppose it’s a given, an assumption that the rest of the world understands …swords?  Certainly the Japanese knew as this is their ancestry—but in many cultures the fact exists that the average person wouldnt make the relation between the two.

What’s Really In a Motorcycle Name? - Blog Vicki Gray - Motoressing
Suzuki Katana Named after a Samurai Sword

Other names are assuredly obvious like: Hurricane (Honda) , Firestorm, Ninja (Kawasaki) but how about number and letter combinations? The “GSXR”-no one ever asks, we accept this combination to mean something fast or take it as,  “Grand Super Xtreme Racer”?  Harley-Davidson have their own name codes such as “Dyna” and “Softail”. I don’t know what relevance softail has to a motorcycle yet this all causes me to explore further.  Ducati use SS to mean “supersport” or ST for “sport touring”, which seems logical to me. But then there’s the first belt driven Ducati Pantah, which when I “googled” found:

The Ducati Pantah was an Italian motorcycle with a 90° V-twin engine, produced between 1980 and 1986. … Successful in racing as the 600 cc TT2 and later TT1 750 cc racer, the Pantah was a lighter, shorter wheelbase motorcycle, in a new trellis frame that was to become a trademark Ducati feature.

Could it be Italian for Panther?

Then again the BMW Motorrad folks do have definitions which we have translated.

Yet having discovered the Katana I do see that there’s  – always something in a name.
but really, when all’s said and done it’s not really important is it?   It’s what’s underneath or inside that really makes a name!

Last Updated: 2017 March


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