A couple of years ago we were at a dinner with several journalists and a Mazda executive. At the other end of the table, a debate broke out about whether the proper pronunciation of the Hiroshima carmaker was the standard issue “MAHZ-dah” or the Australian-accented “MAAZZ-dah.” Finally, the exec schooled everyone with the real pronunciation, “MA-tsu-da.” You can often make friends in Japan by speaking the universal language of cars, but in order to get more than a blanks stare back it’s helpful to say the words correctly. Luckily, YouTuber CZero has helpfully put together a video for this exact purpose.
CZero also helpfully talks a bit about the origin of the carmaker names. For example, Toyota has often explained why its name doesn’t match the founding family’s Toyoda by simply stating that “Toyota” written in Japanese has eight strokes whereas “Toyoda” has ten, and eight is good luck in most Asian cultures.
CZero goes a step further, explaining that ten written in Japanese is a cross, which represents indecision — not a good trait for a company. The “ta” and “da” are variations of the same letter, kind of like a regular N and an N with a tilde in Spanish, and so the two dots that turn “da” into “ta” were simply removed. Voilá, the name of a multinational $200 billion company is born.
The video is well worth a watch, even if you already know that it’s “moo-GEN” and not “MEW-gen,” and that at the end you learn that Mazda simply means “field of pines.”