A blimp is a blimp. These aren't.

The Goodyear blimp is a zeppelin.

The Goodyear Company is upgrading its fleet of airships, going from blimps to zeppelins. This technological step-up will give the flying billboards more speed and passenger-carrying capability than the company had with blimps. But the tire company is also going to continue referring to the airships as Goodyear blimps, even though they aren't. The new aircraft have a rigid structure inside the outer envelope. This lets the three engines be mounted high up on either side and at the aft end.

When I asked Goodyear why they were going ahead with this incorrect use of the word blimp, a well-defined term, a spokesperson replied: “Technically, you are correct.  Our new airship has a semi-rigid structure, which qualifies it as a zeppelin. We are referring to it as the Goodyear Blimp because we have nearly 90 years of equity built into the name and the icon.”

I then asked why they didn’t just call it the Goodyear Tire. Sure, it’s not a tire, but the company has nearly 90 years of equity built into the name and product. So why not?
This kind of doublespeak irritates me. Why use an incorrect word when a perfectly applicable word is available? And I’m not alone in this instance. Airpigz, a website that is “hog wild about anything that flies,’ took a poll on the issue. About 47% of the respondents said: “Goodyear should not call their new airships blimps. Details matter and technically they aren’t blimps.” Almost 37% said: Go ahead. It’s a beloved term even if not completely accurate.” And 15% didn’t care.

I know I won’t be calling them blimps.

For more info on the new Goodyear Zeppelins


Discuss this Blog Entry 2

Leatherstocking (not verified)
on May 22, 2014

Certainly if there can be a concerted effort about the Washington "Redskins" than people could rally against the name "Blimp" as an offensive term for the overweight which should be expunged from the contemporary lexicon.

Paul Kelly (not verified)
on May 23, 2014

Think Zeppelin and the picture enters your head of a Fiery disaster. Also pictures of A zeppelin with Swatika emblem.
Goodyears brand is excellent and they would be nuts to use Zeppelin instead of Blimp. Technical engineering terms have nothing to do with the choice of name.

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What's A Skeptical Engineer?

A questioning, sometimes humorous look at technologies, engineering, and the world.


Stephen Mraz

Steve serves as Senior Editor of Machine Design.  He has 23 years of service and has a B.S. Biomedical Engineering from CWRU. Steve was a E-2C Hawkeye Naval Flight Officer in the U.S. Navy. He...
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