Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Saturday, October 30, 2004


A few weeks ago the excellent blogger Scott Spiegelberg of Musical Perceptions paid a compliment to this blog’s name. As Scott may know, and many people do, I took the name from the wonderful American poet Marianne Moore.

In the late ‘50s the Ford Motor Co. had solicited Moore’s suggestions for the name of a new car. They offered payment, Moore refused it, and after hemming and hawing about Procedures, Ford agreed to receive her suggestions for free. Moore replied, “I thank you for realizing that under contract esprit could not flower.” She sent many suggestions to Ford; her last one was Utopian Turtletop.

The story’s punchline -- well, I’ll let Ford rep David Wallace tell the story, from a letter to Moore, November 8, 1956: “We have chosen a name out of the more than six-thousand-odd candidates that we gathered. It has a certain ring to it. An air of gaiety and zest. At least, that’s what we keep saying. Our name, dear Miss Moore, is -- Edsel. I know you will share your sympathies with us.”

Moore published “The Ford Correspondence” in “A Marianne Moore Reader.”


I have a copy of the April 13, 1957, issue of The New Yorker magazine in which those letters were originally published. There, Wallace's answer is different from the one you show, it's more diplomatic.


November 8, 1956

Dear Miss Moore:

Because you were so kind to us in our early days of looking for a suitable name, I feel a deep obligation to report on events that have ensued.

And I feel I must do so before the public announcement of same come Monday, November 19.

We have chosen the name out of the more
than six thousand-odd candidates that we gathered. It fails somewhat of the resonance, gaiety, and zest we were seeking. But it has a personal dignity and meaning to many of us here. Our name, dear Miss Moore, is -- Edsel.

I hope you will understand.

David Wallace
Special Products Division
Dear Anonymous,

Thanks so much for your comment. The version you quote seems more plausible.

Marianne Moore -- fictioneer! I had no idea. Don't know what to make of it. Maybe much of the correspondence is fiction?

Thanks again.
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