By on February 5, 2013

Bryan writes:

Sajeev, not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’m seeing a new trend in auto advertising. “MPG” is beginning to be used as a noun. As in, “the new CX-5 gets 31 MPGs” (punctuation intended). Only in the last year or so, have MPGs (plural) been spoken instead of “miles per gallon”.

Weird.  Anyway, random thought. Love the site.

Sajeev answers:

To those who feel jilted by the lack of serious automotive content on today’s Piston Slap, go ahead and ask for your money back.  But seriously, this is a fun question. And it’s why I created this series!

I think MPGs became “a thing” because we need to promote fuel economy. This is a hot button issue for everyone.  So everyone wants to talk about it, quickly and efficiently in marketing/advertising materials.  It’s the path of least resistance, much like using “Fishes” incorrectly. And now we have Ford Tauruses on NBC…but I cannot Google the word “Lexuses” and get a quality hit? Maybe because Lexii sounds way cooler than Taurii.

Oh hell, I donno. Take this baby home, Best and Brightest.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

 

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45 Comments on “Piston Slap: MPGs as a noun? OMG!...”


  • avatar
    galloping_gael

    Mazda was jingling about “MPGs” for the GLC back in the 70s (no YouTube, though – damn). The construct is the same as RBIs in baseball…

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      The difference is that RBI is an actual thing / event that can counted, and thus becomes plural. MPG is a rate, a comparison of two different quantities, like batting average or psi. Can you imagine saying someone has .309 BAs?

      But then again, power production (kW) is a rate, too, but it’s common treat it as a countable quantity and pluralize it.

  • avatar
    deanst

    its worse in canada where we sometimes try to use metric- measuring fuel consumption in liters / 100 kilometers. Using this measure, less is better, but I see companies making statements like “up to 7.8 L / 100km” – where they should be saying ” as little as 7.8 L / 100 km “. I guess in the advertising biz more is always better.

    Of course, nobody actually uses or understands this way of measuring, even if it is a better way to measure fuel consumption.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      The big problem with l/100km is that our brains are trained to use bigger = better/more desirable. That’s why so many have problems with it. It certainly has its strengths, but it isn’t inherently better just as min/mile isn’t a better unit for speed, despite it has the same math advantages as l/100km.

    • 0 avatar

      I like L/100 km. It’s really easy for me to estimate how much fuel I need for a given highway trip.

      Miles per gallon as a measuring standard has a special problem in Canada. When Canada used gallons, they were Imperial ones (which are about 4.3 litres). The US uses its own, non-standard US gallon (which is about 3.8 litres). People (and car companies) are very casual about which one they use so it is difficult to know if the measurement you are hearing refers to one or the other.

      • 0 avatar
        tatracitroensaab

        L/100km or gallons/mile is inherently better because it makes it easy to demonstrate to people the declining marginal utility of increasing miles per gallon. For example, a car with 20mpg is twice as efficient as a car with 10 mpg, a car with 30mpg is 50% more efficient than 20mpg, but a car is only 25% better when it gets 50mpg instead of 40.

        That’s why it bothers me when people say “oh the hybrid version of this truck only gets 5 mpg better.” Well if the truck only gets 10mpg to start with that’s quite an improvement

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        It should make it easy to understand, but I think very few do any math to see what they are saving and the point is lost on nearly everyone. How many buyers change cars for marginal increases in fuel efficiency?

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        Agreed. I feel that L/100km is too difficult to estimate when you’re doing mainly city/suburb driving. For the highway, its pretty freakin’ easy for me to estimate that my ~30mpg Saturn Astra is going to go 300 miles on 10 gallons of gas. With L/100km, I’d have to divide ~6.7L by ~480 kms equaling, and I have a 42L tank, hold on, let me use a calculator….

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Gallons per 100 miles would be a great measure too.

      For example, the difference between 16 mpg (6.25 gallons per 100 miles) and 25 mpg (4 gallons per 100 miles), is more significant in gas savings per 100 miles than say going from 30 mpg (3.33 gallons per 100 miles) to 50 mpg (2 gallons per 100 miles). Even though it’s 20 mpg better in the second case, the first case saves 2.25 gallons per 100 miles, whereas the latter only 1.33 per 100 miles.

      In addition to gas savings being obvious, gallons per 100 miles also gives you an idea about how much costs are.

      Incidentally, the L per 100 km is why the Volkswagen Lupo 3L was called “the 3 liter car” — about 78 mpg.

  • avatar

    From now on I will use capitalized acronyms when I write about a car and simply say MPG or SUV or KPH since the last letter can be singular or plural.

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    Frustrating as an Engineer, but this has been around in Marketing for a long time. That’s just how they talk.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Let’s not forget that the electronic industry is way ahead of the curve.
    My favorite is anything having to do with “Megs” or “Gigs”, as it can be applied indiscriminetaly to pixels, bits, hertz, bytes, bauds or whatever.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Just like people saying “VIN number”

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    “gets 31 MPGs” is wrong, but “gets more MPGs” is better use of it. Like “shifts at 3,000 RPMs” would be wrong, but “shifts at higher RPMs” would be correct in spoken language.

    • 0 avatar

      “MPGs” and “RPMs” are wrong, really. The M and R in these figures is already plural.

      “My car gets more MPG than your car does.” If you’re going to use this, that’s how you ought to use it.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I can’t agree, not with those examples at least. I can see a use for “RPMs” like “fishes” to refer to refer to multiple RPM values, but even then, it still isn’t good.

      Perhaps “MPGs” would work for multiple types of mpg measurements, such as when referring to CAFE, EPA hwy, & British ratings together.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Acronyms as nouns aren’t correct in the 1st place, but in the spoken lingo, what sounds better… “That car has a LRA suspension” or “That car has an LRA suspension”? Just “RPM” as a noun and plural does’t sound right, even if correct… “With the bigger tires, it was turning less RPM”. Again, we’re talking ‘spoken’ lingo.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        But acronyms *do* become nouns–not just in speaking but also in writing, such as CD, DVD, ATM, VIN, HMO, etc. Style books even give rules for correct (and incorrect) ways to pluralize acronyms, e.g., don’t use apostrophes unless there is punctuation internal to the acronym (two Ph.D.’s).

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Is it correct to use “CDs”, “ATMs”, etc? “I bought two CD”? “I took three FWY to get here”?

  • avatar
    jberger

    I’m guessing the shift is legal related. The manufacturers are getting sued for milage claims and perhaps using “MPG” gives them a better legal standing by using MPG as a reference to the EPA test cycle, not actual miles per gallon.

  • avatar
    7402

    People are just writing the way they talk. Consider:
    -MPGs vs Ms P G
    -Egg McMuffins vs Eggs McMuffin (cf, Eggs Benedict)
    -Cul-de-sacs vs. Culs-de-sac
    -RPMs vs Rs P M
    -OMGs vs Os M G (nod to article title)
    -Attorney Generals vs Attorneys General

    And Jeremy Clarkson talks about how many “torques” an engine has . . . .

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Well the plural word always goes at the end, so yeah. These made me think of:

      vis-a-vis vs. vis-vis-a’s

    • 0 avatar

      It’d be Culs-de-sacs actually. Ends of bags. A single bag only has one end. :)

      I’m fine with “Egg McMuffins”. The muffin seems the primary part of the dish. I have no idea how many eggs are in it; there could already be plural eggs.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        A general rule is to not break up or modify proper nouns, e.g., if you translate and sell the Book of Luke, how many you sell is neither “Books of Luke” nor “Book of Lukes,” but should be copies of the Book of Luke. “Egg McMuffin” is the proper noun, so it shouldn’t be internally modified.

        But the part about making the noun of a phrase plural instead of the whole phrase is a common goof (e.g., halls of fame, attorneys general). That’s why I like “Foci Electric” despite it contradicts the proper noun rule.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    I’m surprised we haven’t seen MPG’s depicted in a commercial as little Smurf-like creatures that need to be rounded up and captured.

  • avatar
    mistercopacetic

    An earlier commenter probably hit the main reason, it’s easier for the ad to flash “40 MPG!” in big letters, and below that is fine print “EPA Estimated Highway milage, your mileage may vary.” The announcer sometimes also says “…Makes an EPA-Estimated 40 MPG Highway!” Every car company’s legal department probably requires everyone to say “EPA-Estimated” every time they think of anything related to “MPG.”

  • avatar
    dolorean

    “Most Exciting Pontiac Phoenix EVER!” Hilarious and disurbing.

    Love the ecstatic woman with her hands in the air, obviously screaming for someone to help get her off that lofty plateau with Mr. BuffaloBill standing nearby with the rear hatch mawwing open in order to dump her body in the back.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      Just in time for Gas Crisis in 1979. Buyers were demanding and paying full sticker for the first run of GM X cars. Like some ‘magic cure’ or something.

      BTW: Overnight, ‘performance’ was a dirty word in car ads. So, Pontiac, with the Trans Am image, pushed the “More Pontiac to the Gallon” tagline to not scare buyers.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        When the first “jelly bean” cars came out few years later in the 1980s and 1990s, the term coefficent of drag, or Cd, was the new marketing monikor. Car reviews would list the Cd along with the usual HP, torque, and size measurements, and the auto builders raced to see who could develop the car with the lowest Cd. (The actual measure of Cd could be tweeked by changing the car’s attitude in the wind tunnel, usually by adding weight to the trunk.)

        When the Cd race played out at the end of the 1990s, and cars were achieving better mileage not by cutting down on wind drag, but with more efficient engines, marketing when back to the MPG measurement again; ending the era of the “jelly bean” cars.

  • avatar
    cls12vg30

    If Taco Bell can just straight up invent the word “melty” and then have other restaurants start using it, then all bets are off.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    After working with special kids for years I have come to the conclusion that if it works, use it. Unfortunately, I think my writing (sometimes my speaking also) dropped to their level. I tune out most advertisements so it doesn’t matter what they say or how they say it.

  • avatar
    cout

    Page not found
    Sorry, the page you were looking for in the blog Tell Me Why? does not exist.

    Go to blog homepage

  • avatar
    manbridge

    Noun to verb, verb to noun. Same thing happened to the word diet. Diet used to be a noun, what foods you ate. Now it is a verb, losing weight.

    It’s called semantic infiltration. AKA how the left gets things done.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    The plural of Taurus from Latin would be Tauri, not Taurii. 2nd declension.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I wonder if there is any hope that any Phoenix model coudl achieve 37 MPG on the highway.

    I won’t completely refute the idea that it’s possible, as I once had an ’84 Dodge Charger (Duster, O24 whatever) with a carburated 2.2L that could easily return mileage in the 30s. That car had probably all of 88hp and maybe weighed a tad over 1 ton.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    37 “MPG’s” going 55 “MPH’s” in a tailwind, maybe. These are old, old figures.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I actually heard a girl pronounce MPGs “Empeegees”. In fact, I’ve also heard MSRP pronounced “misrip” and NSFW pronounced “nisfoo” (as in, “what the nisfoo is going on?”). Most recently I heard MSNBC referred to as “missnibsea”. Turning acronyms that don’t spell out as words into words by adding vowels seems to be a trend. It’s not just for SNAFU anymore.


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