Car names are getting sillier. In the past, it was just the Japanese who gave us all a giggle, with cars such as the Nissan Gloria and Nissan Cedric (never mind the Mazda Bongo Brawny). Or the Mitsubishi Pajero - fine in English, but not so good in Spain, where pajero is an obscenity.

Nowadays, it is the Europeans who make you cringe. As the vast thesaurus of aspirational and usable English/French/Italian/Spanish names is exhausted, so car makers are turning to companies which, for a few hundred thousand quid, will invent attractive names.

The Mondeo was one of the first, created to express a worldliness (Il Mondo, Le Monde etc), in keeping with what was a "world car". Now everybody seems to be beating a path to the offices of the corporate equivalents of "Choosing Your Baby's Name".

I've just been driving a car that could take the Maddest Moniker (1997) prize. Xsara, Citroen's replacement for the honest (and honest-sounding) ZX, is not only a meaningless name, it is also unpronounceable. At the recent press unveiling, in France, I asked what it meant.

The marketing guy, with a straight face, spoke about "the hi-tech romantic connotations of the letter X"; he talked of "the positive associations with the female name, and connotations with Russian Tsars or kings" and "the romantic association of the Sahara desert".

Equally meaningless monikers have just been unveiled by Daewoo, whose brand essence - if nothing else - is no-nonsense customer service. Its three new cars, on sale soon, are the Lanos, the Nubira and the Leganza.They sound like a cross between Greek gods and brands of disinfectant.

The new Land Rover Freelander is another daft one. What does Freelander mean? Its nickname is already the Freeloader.

But while model names may becoming more pretentious than ever, the names of trim levels are not.

The old "Standard" and "Deluxe" tags, once favoured by British makers, were never popular with those who could only afford the "Standards". So Ford, the first British car maker to understand one of the golden rules of marketing (that no one wants to advertise their lack of money), devised the L, GL, GLX and similar badges.

To the uninitiated, the letters meant nothing. But to the badge-conscious company car user, a GLX badge was shorthand for management. Now, as with model names, letters are out and names are in. But instead of engaging some swanky Covent Garden "names" experts, car makers have resorted to the favoured communication tool of marketing departments - the cliche.

Thus, the top-level version of the Xsara is called the Exclusive. There is plainly very little "exclusive" about it, comfortable and well-equipped though it is.

Worst of all, though, is probably the Jaguar XJ Executive. Any sensible person would assume that if you own a new Jag, you are probably an "executive". Does any owner really want a naff plastic badge that says so?