Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Easter Egg - Ford What Now?

As everyone knows, the man from a small planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse (the one with one head) is named Ford Prefect.

A slightly less known fact is that this is a joke, because the Ford Prefect was a very popular car when HHGTTG was written, so, a lot of people were saying the name. Thus, it would make sense for an alien to name himself that.

An even lesser known fact. When the book was translated into French, the translator realized that most people who would be reading the French version would not know the above-mentioned joke. So, in the French version of the story, Ford's name is Ford Escort, a more well known car.

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Contributed By: Gorp on 10-01-1999
Reviewed By: Webmaster
Special Requirements: The English & French Version of the book
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Comments

starstone writes:
42
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Grug writes:
To quote Mr. Adams himself: "While I was filling in the details of the first plot - in which the Earth was demoolished to make way for a new hyperspace express route - I realized that I needed to have someone from a different planet around to tell the reader what was going on, to give the story the context it needed. So I had to work out who he was and what he was doing on Earth. I decided to call him Ford Prefect. (This was a joke that missed American audiences entirely of course, since they had never heard of the rather oddly named car, and many thought it was a typing error for Perfect.) I explained in the text that the minimal research my alien character had done before arriving on this planet had led him to believe that this name would be 'nicely inconspicuous'. He had simply mistaken the dominant life form..."
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lasserine writes:
Betelguese is a Western version of an Arabic word meaning "warrior's shoulder or armpit"(no joke.) "warrior" refers to the constellation Orion. Betelguese is the star representing Orion's right shoulder.
20 of 24 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Gem writes:
Yes, Betelgeuse is a star, not a planet (just as Sirius [as in the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation] is a star). A few thoughts on Ford's name: I was acutely aware of Zaphod calling his own cousin by his Earth name, but soon reasoned it out. Zaphod is Ford's cousin, and, if memory serves me correctly, is not from the same planet as Ford. Therefore, the dialects or perhaps languages would be completely different and such...If Ford couldn't say his own name, I doubt Zaphod would address him by it, being a speaker of another dialect to begin with. If you want to be very technical and dorky about it, the l fish is supposed to loop into the subconscious and such, so if Ford labeled himself as "Ford", it would sound that way to him. If Arthur, in his mind, labeled ford as "Applesauce", whenever someone said Ford's name, it would sound as "Applesauce" to Arthur. You must also understand that the l fish does not affect the speech centers, but in fact the way the words are translated. So, um, anyway. I lost my point, and my mind's feeling more muddled than normal. That's my three cents on the issue. Ah. One more thing. I got the car joke without knowing the backround information, but another play on words came to mind when I saw his name. A "prefect" is a ruler of sorts, a chieftain, if you will. This (probably unintended) pun appeals to me greatly for no readily explainable reason. And, yes, the joke about the car thing was supposed to be that he thought cars ruled us. ...Didn't I say I was going to shut up?
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Half a Dent writes:
You have to remeber that Arthur had the babel fish in his ears when Zaphod met up with Ford and the bable fish probably translated whatever Zaphod said into what Ford could understand. So he (and we) would have heard it as Ford. That's my theory anyway!
18 of 27 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
DCLXVI writes:
Not to be picky, but I've noticed the word "traduced" used in many posts to refer to different translations of a work. Try as I might, I can't find a definition of that word that bears any resemblance to what the posters apparently mean. The English definition is: "To cause humiliation or disgrace to by making malicious and false statements". Unless the word has an alternate (and vastly different) meaning in another language, this usage is incorrect.
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4rqiYTdh writes:
The point is this - if Ford only took the name 'Ford Prefect' when he came to Earth, why did Zaphod call him 'Ford' when he first met him on the Heart of Gold?
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Phar writes:
Actually, the French version is quite well traduced. You find another funny thing in the traduction of the name "Zaphod Breeblebox" (I'm not sure it's the correct spelling!). In french, it gives "Zappy Bibicy", which is a reference to the English Broadcasting company BBC. Well, we could spend years commenting the traductions of this great book.
9 of 12 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Domovoi writes:
In the Dutch version, Ford is called "Amro Bank," which, at the time, was the name of a big bank in the Netherlands.
8 of 11 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
everclearfan writes:
I love the Hitchhiker's Guide books, and have always known Ford Prefect was a joke, but I didn't know what it was about. That's nice to know. My advice to the world: 42 & Don't Panic.
12 of 19 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
To hopefully reduce the confusion: Neil Gaiman wrote 'Don't Panic!: The Official Guide to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'. I'm not entirely sure about the title, but I know it begins with 'Don't Panic'. From what I hear it's got all these puns and more listed, so maybe one should consider going out and buying it instead of these endless arguments? Maybe?
7 of 9 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
spudnic writes:
Get ready for a +1 Insightful... About the Zaphod calling Ford Ford thing and the bablefish explanation. It made sense until I really thought about it. If the bablefish translated Ford's real name to what Arthur knew his name to be on Earth, then why didn't the bablefish translate Zaphod into Phil or Tricia instead of Trillian? He had previous knowledge of both of them from Earth. Shouldn't these have been translated along with Ford? "I don't care," said Arthur coldly. "We've met, haven't we, Zaphod Bebblebrox--or should I say... Phil?"
8 of 11 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Vegeta's_gal writes:
Okay, y'all really need to read the radio scripts. They explain, like someone (I forget who) said, Ford had hid real name ripped out of the fabric of space and time, so no one *knows* his real name, because it doesn't exist anymore. At all. Ever. He is, for all intents and purposes, Ford Prefect. Ha ha, I'm such a dork.
7 of 10 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Rubbercheque writes:
The use of "traduction" by a french speaker writing in english is an example of using a word in a foreign language identical to one in your own, assuming the meaning to be the same, when in fact it is not. In english such a word is called a "faux ami", which is, of course, french. If this is understood I've done something wrong.
6 of 9 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Adam Murray writes:
For the record: it's spelled "Betelgeuse". http://www.dictionary.com/cgi-bin/dict.pl?term=betelgeuse
7 of 11 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
catsmeow writes:
BTW, my parents had a Ford Prefect I thinkā€¦so I got the joke right away. Yes, I'm American. Also, Betelgeuse is actually a real star system and a conveniently far off one. MOOOOOOO!
5 of 7 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
John Walker writes:
Grog: The dominent species has everything to do with it. That is a DIRECT QUOTE from the Douglas Adams himself! The joke being that he though the CARS ruled US! Because we spend so much time on/in them. Geddit?? Someone who attends Oxford University should be able to figure this out.
5 of 7 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Jesse writes:
In French, the word for "translation" or "translated" is traduction. Seeing as how it was posted by a french person, this is understood.
4 of 6 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
ford comes form a planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse not Betelgeuse
3 of 4 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
emmak writes:
The point is that is doesn't make sense to be called Ford Prefect, same as Chevy '57 would be an unusual name for a person............
3 of 5 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Roger writes:
The Ford Prefect was hardly a popular car when the book was written (unless Adams was working on it for 20 years or more). However, truth being stranger than fiction, there is now an England rugby player called Austin Healey ...
2 of 3 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Chris Dent writes:
Good point, but remember, Ford could never remember his REAL name. He most likely asked everyone to from then on refer to him as "Ford Prefect", which makes things a tad less confusing for Arthur.
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Fitz_R_Me writes:
I have to agree with Half-A-Dent. The Babel fish translates everything from the brain patterns of the wearer/listener. Therefore, when it heard the name of Ford (which is impronouncable, and therefore called 'Ix' (boy who cannot suffuciently explain what a hrung is nor why it should choose to collapse on Betelguese 7) (I think thats right, doing memory)) it translated it to Ford for Arthur.
3 of 5 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Space Man writes:
Once again, I refer everyone to the aforementioned book by Neil Gaiman (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, go read the egg about Arthur Dent's name). Douglas Adams originally intended to include a line of dialogue in the radio script that would have established that Ford had registered his new name with the Galactic Nomenclaturoid Office (or something like that), which had the technology to remove his previous impronounceable name from the fabric of space-time and weave his new one in its place, so that for all intents and purposes, his name had always been and would always be Ford Prefect. Unfortunately, that line got cut because of time limitations, and it didn't occur to Mr. Adams to mention it in the book. (Now that I think about it, Mr. Adams may have been kidding, or trying to cover his nether regions.)
2 of 3 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
xyrth writes:
no, beetleguise is an actual star.
3 of 5 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
xyrth writes:
dunno about my spelling tho -- but it's a big red star.
2 of 3 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
DaveL writes:
Ford is from a planet orbiting the star Betelguese, which is indeed pronounced "Beetle-juice," but that is the actual name of an actual star, named long before there was even a car named the Beetle.
3 of 5 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
paulus writes:
And finally a french car company introduced a van into Britain. It only came in two colours and therefore they were called 'Van Blanc and Van Rouge'
2 of 4 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
@8*7 writes:
I always thought it would be clever if Zaphod called Ford "Ix" as an in-joke for betelgeusians. Also, does anyone know what the name of the guy who lives on poles is?
1 of 2 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Rell writes:
Didn't Beetlejuice come out after 1979, the copyright year for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? This year is according to my copy of The More Than Complete Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Also, the exact quote from the book on Ford's name reads... "He had made one careless blunder though, because he had skimped a bit on his preparatory research. The information he had gathered had led him to choose the name "Ford Prefect" as being nicely inconspicuous." Page 11, starting on line 10 in The Hitchhikers Guide
2 of 4 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
RedDCM writes:
Time to finish hopefully finish this. Most taken from book. Ford chose the name Ford Prefect because his research led him to believe that name would be nicely inconspicuous. The reason being is that his research led him to believe that the dominate life was automobiles because there were more cars that people. It was that misunderstanding of the facts he had that led him to take the name Ford Prefect.
2 of 4 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Grog writes:
Ford Prefect has nothing to do with perfect, or the dominent species, its simply he was lazy on his research into names and saw the name Ford Prefect often in information, but not too often such as to be suspicious anyway (being called John Smith is always suspicious). His lack of research meant he didn't notice it was the name of a vehicle, not a person.
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punstergal writes:
Actually, adj, that really isn't a pun on the VW Beetle because Betelguise (spelling is off but you know what word I'm aiming for) is an actually area in astronomy. It's the name of a galaxy or a group of stars or something- I remember learning about it in an astronomy class.
2 of 5 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
wOnkothesAne writes:
Just to correct someone above who said Ford and Zaphod came from different planets: In SLATFATF For tells Slartibartfast that he was in the Cybercubicle next to Zaphod as school. So they went to school together. Ok maybe one of them went to school on a different planet. Ok, maybe. P.S. The spell check accused me of spelling Slartibartfast wrong. What does it know.
1 of 3 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
L-Tel writes:
Just a small point - the Ford Prefect went out of production in 1961, but HHGTTG was only written and first aired much later in 1977. It wasn't a very well-known car by then, and people weren't saying the name, which I think makes Douglas's joke on us all the cleverer.
0 of 1 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Meg writes:
About the word traduced, (as I noticed in Frenchie's comment) the verb for translate is traduir, so that's what it means, to translate. And about Ford Prefect, didn't the guy mention that, while a common name in the area, it was not a common PEOPLE name? Not so big an egg, if the book talks about it.
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Mark Bailey writes:
I feel I should point out that the name Betelgeuse (which is only ever pronounced 'beetle-juice' by fans of H2G2 and That Film) is not derived from the translation 'armpit of the hunter'. This arose from a mis-spelling in a translation from the Arabic into Latin a few centuries ago. The correct pronunciation really should have begun with a 'Y' or perhaps an 'R', and should have translated as 'Hand of (the) Jawza', where Jawza was the collection of stars we now call Gemini. Sorry, chaps... Oh, and I might point out that the whole 'Space is big' bit in the radio series (and the book) was very likely a homage to the first few minutes of the film 'A Matter of Life and Death', in the 1940s. See it! And finally, that Pink Floyd put an acknowledgement to Douglas Adams on the album 'Division Bell'... A reference to the requirement to 'Keep Talking'...
1 of 3 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
misfire writes:
I knew it was a joke. As for where Ford was from, he was from the Betelgeuse system. Yes, it is a star, but how do we know if there are planets or not?
1 of 3 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
misfire writes:
Did 42 actually mean ANYTHING?!? Or was it just a number Adams just picked out of Random? Also, about Random... I had a cat I named Random. I named her after Arthur's daughter in "Mostly Harmless"! Why did I do that? Well, I picked her out of a litter of kittens who all looked just like her, and I picked her without any method at all. I figured it was Mostly Harmless!
3 of 7 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
As far as I know, no one has touched on this point yet. Okay, so the book was published in 1979. That means he was probably thinking of ideas for it around the year 1977 or so. Let it be known that in THHGTG, Ford lived on Earth for 10 or 15 years (I forget which) before the book starts talking about the present. 1977-15=1962 1977-10=1967 ... plenty of time for Ford to notice that the Ford Prefect was a popular car. I hope that this clears up some things (: ~Ken
2 of 5 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Sailor C writes:
Misfire: Douglas Adams picked 42 because he thought it was the funniest sounding two digit number. When you think about it, he's right. Someone once pointed out that if you turn "42" upsaide down, is looks a bit like "2b" To be...OR NOT TO BE! ^_- ~C-chan
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BlueWrath writes:
In regards to the name IX used before I remembered it's also in the Dune series by Frank Herbert series and substitutes the name of a planet which no one knows the name of.
0 of 1 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Having read only the forst 4 books and nothing else, the thing I like best about them is that Mr Adams has managed to cause such debates about what exactly a guys name is and how he got it. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. His name is not essential to the story, and if Douglas Adams made a mistake in the whole babel-fish thing, then he made a mistake. Big deal, everyone does it. Even you Very_Smart_Guy.
1 of 3 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
warren writes:
Now I have to find a french version.
1 of 4 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Charl2000 writes:
I agree with half-a-dent too. I never noticed that (Zaphod calling Ford Ford) was odd though. I was probably half asleep while reading that part of the book.
0 of 4 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Chris writes:
Surely by it saying in the book that when he did his peliminary research he thought that Ford Prefect was an incongurrous (or whatever) name, it makes it pretty obvious that that was what it is aiming at. Come on, I'm 17 this month and I got that!
0 of 4 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Jonathan Tu writes:
Space Man - read the Arthur Dent name egg, didn't find a reference to Neil Gaiman. I'd like some info, seeing as how Gaiman is one of my favorite authors (Sandman, Good Omens, etc. etc.) I've always thought Ford Prefect somehow referred to the title ancient Chinese gave to the "wise men" of their region. Don't ask me how I explained Ford. :P As for the whole babel fish, Zaphod calling Ford "Ford" thing, I doubt Adams was thinking of the babel fish at the time. Most likely, he didn't even realize the discrepancy. Of course, this is all put in the round file if what Space Man wrote was true.
0 of 4 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Okay, very_smart_guy... a) you need to calm down...this is supposed to be a discussion, not an attack on your beliefs which brings me to point b) Hitchhiker is your bible?! Dude, a touch of reality is not a bad thing. I admit the book is really good, but just like Star Wars or Star Trek (two other "bibles" you probably have followed in the past) it's what it is, and nothing more. Insightful? Yes. Clever? Yes. Holy and sacred? Survey says, "No".
5 of 14 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
Hawkeye writes:
to respond to grug (and i mean this all humorously) demoolished? deMOOlished? Dang it, man! this is Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy! not Attack of the Killer Cows! (run! run for your lives! noooooooooooMOOOOO!*squish*) Okay, that aside, one more theory: Betelgeuse: not car, space formation, but maybe TV show? anyone remember Beetlejuice, with the guy in the old prison outfit with disgusting teeth and doing strange things in a weird universe? anyone? oh well, maybe not...
2 of 9 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
I suggest that everyone that has thus far posted a comment on this egg read the section with the joke on Ford Prefect over again. This book is my bible, and I hate to think that anyone would misinterpret it. I saw a few people who got it, but the joke isn't that "he saw the name Ford Prefect a lot and so he took it." I'll give you some advice, too. When you read the book, READ EVERY LINE. And make sure you understand those lines before you attempt to communicate with another sentient being regarding the book.
5 of 19 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No


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