Iraqi Drivers Like To Cruise in 'Obamas'

Nov 12, 2014 03:35 PM EST | Jordan Ecarma

Plenty of people nickname their vehicles, and movie cars like Herbie can be household names--but have you driven an Obama?  

That's what drivers in Iraqi Kurdistan call the sedan that sells as a Chrysler 300 in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reported.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, foreign cars became available in Iraq's Kurdish north, boosted by loosened trade restrictions and a stronger economy. But rather than call the cars by their given titles, which can be difficult for the Kurds to pronounce, they give popular vehicles nicknames based on famous figures. 

"Some people can't pronounce the names, so we come up with beautiful names," 21-year-old car salesman Amanj Azad told the Journal.

The exact time when people started calling the vehicle an Obama is in contention, but either way, not many people will identify their cars as Chrysler 300s. Chrysler and the White House declined to comment on the colloquial name for the sedan.

The Toyota Land Cruiser has gone through more than one nickname; currently called "the Wanawsha" after a famous Kurdish actress and singer, the SUV was known as "the Monica" in the late 1990s during the Clinton administration.

Monica Lewinsky took the news of her namesake in stride.

"That's funny," she in an email relayed by her agent and quoted by the Journal. "I call my Prius ... 'Kurdistan.'"

While no one is sure exactly how Lewinsky's name became associated with the Land Cruiser, the SUV earned the recent Wanawsha moniker for its sleek styling.

"Sometimes, if it's beautiful, we name it after something beautiful," 20-year-old Ahmed Sartrip told the Journal. "If it's ugly, we name it with something ugly."

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