75th Anniversary


What Do You Call That Thing You Ride In?

September 26th, 2011

A classic Catholic Digest article from August 1950

Photo from Photos.com


As Hurricane Irene ambled up the east coast of the U.S., our markets were full of people desperately hunting for artificial electrical organs. That, at least, would have been what they were looking for if Alessandro Volta’s original name for batteries had been adopted. And they would have called to check on friends and loved ones using their harmonic telegraphs, which is what Alexander Graham Bell is said to have first named the device we know as the telephone.


A lot of inventors have struggled to come up with names for their inventions, only to see the public eventually call them something else. Liquid Paper® is said to have been called “Mistake Out” by its inventor, the zipper was a “clasp-locker,” the first audio recorder was called a “telegraphone,” the first escalator an “inclined elevator.” One of the first bicycles was called a velocipede (vélo still means “bike” in French). The first person to make what we call a photograph called it a “heliograph,” and Microsoft was ready to unveil its Interface Manager when someone in marketing suggested they call it Windows®.


The same thing happened with the automobile, as this classic Catholic Digest article recounts. These early vehicles went by many different names, and newspapers held contests to see what this kind of machine should be called: the quadracycle? The petrocar? The Tomo? How about the Cyclomobile?


Those and many more names are here in “What Do You Call that Thing You Ride In?” from the August 1950 issue of Catholic Digest.


Dan Connors



Click here to read this classic article