Some people name their cars. Others don't. But while those nicknames tend to be an individual choice in America, in Iraqi Kurdistan, they seem to be agreed upon by the entire region.

Since locals seem to have trouble pronouncing some of the names – whose English spelling may not mean anything in their native tongue – they pick other names, often taken from prominent public figures. (Or at least personalities who are well known in Kurdistan.) The Chrysler 300, for example, is called the Obama – probably because that's what the President drove before taking office. The Toyota Land Cruiser was once known as the Monica – as in Lewinski, who in turn jested she referred to her Prius as "Kurdistan" – but is now called Wanawsha after a local actress.

Sabaw, another Kurdish starlet, lent her name to the Toyota Corolla, which in yellow-clad taxi form is apparently called a Pikachu. The Kia Soul is known as the Potin (army boot), the old Mercedes E-Class as the Niew Dinar (dinar and a half) for its round headlights and the BMW 3 Series as the Chowbro (eyebrow) for its angular headlights. The Great Wall Deer pickup is known as the Shamal (wind) for its swift pace, and a big four-door pickup was dubbed Marzia after a full-figured local singer.

The names are apparently so pervasive that if you referred to an Obama as a Chrysler, nobody would know what you were talking about. Tracing just where these names come from, meanwhile, would be nearly impossible, but we're sure there are more than a few who'll claim responsibility for a particular handle catching on.


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