I’ll get this out of the way first: this is NOT a list of my favorite expletives. I may talk like a sailor in my spare time, but Everyday Driver is a family-friendly brand and I work hard to not break that theme. This is something a bit different, and a topic that bugs me all the time.
There are a handful of words that won’t get you in trouble at the dinner table, but SHOULD get you kicked out of a car meet. I genuinely HATE most of these words or phrases, and wish that car enthusiasts would eliminate them from their vocabulary (or at the very least elaborate when using them).
These “bad words” say a lot about the person who uses them. USUALLY, I find that it tells me that they have no clue what they’re talking about. There might be later installments of this series as I think of more/have them suggested in the comments, but I want to get the MOST annoying ones out of the way first..
The “B” word
I’m getting the worst out of the way first. Well, it’s two, actually. The B-word is BETTER (and also BEST). It’s always the shallow pointless question “which is the BEST?”. To which I internally scream “THE BEST AT WHAT?????”.
Without a deep dive in the English language, I can definitely say that the words “better” and “best” are adjectives. Adjectives are used as descriptors to show characteristics of something. They need context, or to be attached to another word to have any actual meaning. Without proper use, these words mean next to nothing and do car culture a huge disservice.
“Is a Tesla BETTER than a McLaren?” makes zero sense. Is a Tesla better than a McLaren for a commuter? Absolutely. Is it better than a McLaren for enthusiast driving other than perhaps straight drag racing? Absolutely not.
The word BETTER on its own has absolutely no meaning and is a pointless word to use to compare things.
Tough Love/What the B-Word says about the user: You don’t know enough to realize that there are different things about cars that make them special. You clearly have no original opinions and ask what is better so you can align with somebody else’s opinion and fit in.
The “F” word
Calm down. The “F-word” in this context is FAST or FASTER. The first question you’ll often hear in response to being presented with a new car to look at is “Is it FAST?”
Sigh. While some cars are undeniably fast in every measurable way, most fall into a gray area that needs a bit of explanation. Such a complicated question to answer and honestly most car enthusiasts hear this and immediately know they likely aren’t talking to one of their own.
There’s a few issues here.
People say FAST but it could mean a multitude of things:
Do they mean acceleration?
Perhaps lap Times?
All of these get roped into “fast” but all have different answers. There needs to be a qualifier in order to answer the question.
A Lamborghini Countach from the 80s can do 180mph (plenty fast in terms of top speed) but a current Camry can accelerate to 60mph faster than the Lambo. However, that same Camry can’t come CLOSE to doing 180mph. So, which is Faster? It needs some qualification, but either way the F word used alone doesn’t explain anything.
This happens all over - A Cayman can lap most race tracks faster than a Hellcat with 2-3x the power thanks to nearly an extra TON of weight, but there’s no way the Dodge isn’t showing its taillights to the Porsche in a drag race. Which is faster?
Tough Love/What the F-Word says about the user: You aren’t really a DRIVING enthusiast and using this word makes one sound like a teenager that has either just gotten their license or about to get it. Look, we've all been there - but learning the difference between the ways a car can be called FAST is a huge lesson that needs to happen soon for everybody’s sake.
The “N” word
Need. The word I'm talking about is NEED. Let’s cut to the chase. In the life of a car enthusiast, NEED is something that has NO place in our vocabulary.
Nobody NEEDS a fast car. Nobody NEEDS to spend money on track days. Nobody NEEDS 400+ Horsepower. Nobody NEEDS multiple vehicles. Nobody NEEDS to modify their car. Nobody NEEDS aftermarket wheels.
Personally, I don’t NEED that kind of negativity in my life. Because all we truly NEED is a cheap compact car that gets us to and from with zero frills and offers no enjoyment. But who wants to think about that? If we all bought what we NEEDED, we would be driving a base trim Nissan Versa. Clearly you wouldn’t be reading this if you shopped solely on need.
Tough Love/What the N-Word says about the user: You’re actively putting practicality in front of your own enjoyment. Shame on you. Logic/Necessity are things that have no business in the life of a car enthusiast.
The “S” word
Slow. Like FAST, slow is a relative term. Slow compared to what? Slow in what situation? While there are certainly vehicles (like say, a dump truck) that are pretty much slow in every way, the gray area here is tricky too.
A 105hp Miata is far slower in both acceleration and top speed than most current minivans. However, that Miata would likely annihilate the van on an autocross course, back road or race track. Is it still slow then? Also, how many other cars have a single-make racing series like the MX-5 Cup? Would we bother racing slow cars?
For nearly a decade, I owned a “SLOW” Scion FRS. It regularly lapped my local track in less time than countless cars that are not designated nearly as slow as mine was. When people in v8 Mustangs (among others) can’t seem to keep up with me on track they always assumed I’ve turbocharged my engine, or have ‘something under the hood’ and are absolutely gutted when they found out it made less than 200hp. So either the SLOW car isn’t that slow, or I’m not slow and therefore the car isn’t by extension.
Tough Love/What the S-Word says about the user: Like the F-Word, the S-Word just shows you don’t know much about driving beyond mashing the gas. You can go your whole life not knowing any better, but you’re probably better off broadening your horizons a bit.
This isn’t some elitist rant - I just want prospective car people to think a bit beyond these simple adjectives - realize there’s more to cars than these basic terms, and the nuance of these simple terms is really what car talk is all about anyways. When you’re asked one of these BAD WORDS, instead of a yes/no answer, as for some elaboration.
Turn that single word answer (that doesn’t really say anything anyways) into a real conversation.
Basically, USE YOUR WORDS, people
I write and I know things. I am also the resident motorcycle expert at Everyday Driver - check out the Cycle Report on our YouTube channel - www.thecyclereport.com - The views and opinions expressed here are my own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.