Friday, February 12, 2010

What's My Line?

Dirty van with large black letters on the side reading Hudson Invalid Coach
Now that's a confusing business name!

1. Being in Minnesota, I assumed the name referred to the closest place named Hudson -- Hudson, Wisconsin. But no, this van is from a business near the Hudson River in New Jersey.

2. The adjective "invalid" is a heteronym -- a word that is spelled the same as another, but pronounced differently as well as having a different meaning. In this case, it's meant to be read as INvalid, meaning a person with an illness or disability. (Although I doubt the disability community would care for that term!) But in the age of the interweb, I'd say the other meaning, inVALid, has become the dominant one -- particularly in the sense of an invalid argument in a computer program. Either way, it seems like a poor choice of words for this business name.

3. "Coach" is a noun that can mean either a four-wheeled carriage or a person who teaches another person how to do something. The carriage meaning comes from the German kutsche, which in turn came from the Hungarian village of Kocs, which I gather was known for making coaches around 1500. According to, the teaching definition comes from Oxford University around 1830, as "slang for a tutor who 'carries' a student through an exam." This type of usage in an athletic context followed in 1861. Clearly, the meaning of coach today is more closely associated with the teacher role, or possibly the second-class-citizen seats on an airplane. (Or, if Google Images is to be believed, the most common usage is the Coach handbag brand name.) So using it on the side of a van seems a bit clueless.

To my surprise, though, I see that "invalid coach" is an official term for this type of vehicle (basically, an ambulance-like vehicle that can transport people on a non-emergency basis). And also that it is very common among such businesses on the east coast. Huh!

Here's one thought on a different way to visualize an invalid coach:

Male adult coach screaming at a football player


Michael Leddy said...

That'd be from Hudson County, home of Bayonne, Hoboken, Jersey City, Union City, and other great and near-great cities. I wonder what a Hudson Invalid Coach was doing in your part of the country.

elena said...

I'm still laughing over the photo..thanks!

Daughter Number Three said...

Thanks, Michael! That part makes a bit more sense now.

Gimp! said...

I just spotted a DIFFERENT Hudson Invalid Coach on South Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis. Why are there two Invalid Coaches from Hudson in Minneapolis?
I posted it to a disabilities forum and we're having a good laugh (I'm paraplegic).