The Lamborghini Countach, produced between 1974 and 1990, was a coupe with a dramatic wedge shape. Only 2,042 cars were manufactured, but the car’s design—executed in trapezoidal panels covered with aluminum—influenced many later models.
“Scissor” doors on a Lamborghini Countach. Photo from Classic Cars.
The Countach may be the only automobile in history whose name is a crude word in Piedmontese, which is spoken by about 2 million people in northwestern Italy. The word—pronounced, roughly, coon-tahshe—is usually said to translate to “Wow!” or “Look at that!” (Most of the explanations I read qualified this definition with “in polite terms”; in other words, it’s probably closer, connotatively, to “Holy shit!”) According to one story—citation needed, according to the Wikipedia entry—“Countach!” was what Italian automobile designer Giuseppe “Nuccio” Bertone exclaimed when he saw the prototype in his studio.*
Used Countaches are currently selling for between $100,000 and $200,000, according to one online vendor.
It’s hard to imagine a name like “Countach” surviving a 21st-century focus group: for speakers of English it’s just too uncomfortably close to cunt-ass or coon-ass. In fact, my memory suddenly produced “Countach” while I was researching a recent news snippet about coon-ass. A friend of George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida on February 26, has publicly defended Zimmerman for calling Martin a “coon.” (Martin was African-American; so is Oliver.) Oliver told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews:
That’s a term I listened to over and over on there and to me, it’s a matter of interpretation of whether he’s saying ‘coon’ or ‘goon.’ There are a lot of parts of this country where people proudly call themselves ‘coon asses,’ in Louisiana in particular.
Coon-ass or coonass is indeed used in Louisiana to refer to Cajuns, but it’s widely regarded as derogatory. One possible etymology of the word is conasse, which is the equivalent of “cunt” and can be an epithet for a prostitute. Another etymology suggests a connection to the racial slur coon. But, as with many offensive or derogatory terms, its meaning varies with the speaker and the context. The Louisiana Cajun who runs CoonAss.com defends his URL thus:
I carry the name CoonAss.com as a reminder of how our culture nearly disappeared and how we as a people have taken the bad traits outsiders associated with being Cajun and have turned them into something good.
See also my 2008 post, “She’s No Lady.”
* Lamborghini history is full of interesting model names, most of them from the world of bullfighting: Miura, Urraco, Diablo, and Murciélago, which means “bat” in Spanish but was chosen because it had been the name of a famous fighting bull.