CC Capsule: 1985 Mitsubishi Pajero – Kama Sutra For One

Aren’t foreign languages wonderful? And don’t the Japanese suck at them? They’re not the only ones, for sure. But when your country is archipelagic, it can increase linguistic isolation. Britain has a similar issue, but at least, the Brits have a sense of humour about these things. And they don’t routinely name their cars with odd and inapproriate foreign-sounding names, they prefer odd and inappropriate English names.

In Japan, you can ride in a Cocoa, a Cappucino, a Splash, a Chiffon, a Pistachio or a Latte. And if you don’t want those, you can just go get a Life (or have a Fit). Or, until the end of this year, you could just relax and have a Pajero. It’s no secret that this Mitsubishi was never sold anywhere near Spanish-speaking countries. Even in the US, which has a large Spanish-speaking population, they took no chances and renamed these “Montero.” And that’d be ok if it weren’t for one question: just what exactly does pajero mean in the Spanish-speaking world?

Well, I had a bit of a browse on translation websites, and opinions are somewhat contrasted. Which, given that Spanish is spoken by about half a billion people in over 20 countries, is pretty normal. For some, pajero means liar. Elsewhere, it can mean lazy – or even plumber, apparently. But most do agree that the vulgar meaning of the word, i.e. a man frequently practicing onanism – or wanker, in plain English – is likely to be the most widely understood definition. It’s derived from the word “paja” (straw)…

I’m not sure why Mitsubishi thought naming a car Pajero was a good idea, especially a model they were going to export far and wide. They certainly weren’t the first to make this kind of mistake (Nissan Cedric, anyone?), but give them credit – at least they stuck to their guns. The Pajero is about to exit the JDM after 37 years of continuous production, going through four generations.

As I found this nicely maturing early model on the streets of Bangkok, where these are now rather rare, I thought we could all take a moment and reflect. And laugh at that bunch of pajeros working at Mitsubishi’s marketing department.