What nationality is BMW?

wolfbm1

Senior Member
Polish
Hello.

BMW is a car manufacturer. BMW is German.

1. What nationality is BMW? ~It is German.

Context: Gisele Bundchen, a model, is German.

2. What nationality is Gisele Bundchen? She is German.

Is question1 idiomatic?

Thank you.
 
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  • Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    ...
    Context: Gisele Bundchen, a model, is German.

    2. What nationality is Gisele Bundchen? She is German...
    Ms. Bundchen is a U.S. citizen whose family lived in Brazil for five generations before she moved to the U.S. Her ancestors six generations ago were German, but she isn't. She is, depending on your point of view, either Brazilian or American. This isn't a language issue. but the error should be corrected.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I think "Made in Germany" is the most common designation for BMW.

    The governing body for "Made in Germany" allowed that if the final assembly was in Germany, that the item could be labeled "made in Germany".

    This can be very misleading however if the entire item is manufactured in another country and a small part of the item is done on German soil. It would still qualify as "made in Germany". (This information is from the late 1980s and may nolonger be accurate).
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    BMW is the largest exporter of automobiles from the U.S., because its South Carolina factory is the only assembly location for several models that have worldwide markets. As of now all BMW engines are imported to the U.S. from Germany, but in November 2018 BMW announced that is is considering building a U.S. plant for engines and transmissions. BMWs are designed in Munich, Shanghai and Los Angeles. People (including myself; I drive one) still think of BMWs as German, but are they? Is this term still meaningful?

    Perhaps that sounds like a topic that is better suited to a philosophy forum than for a language discussion, but it raises the question "what does the word 'German' [or any other nationality] really mean?" Legal definitions do not necessarily reflect language use, and "Made in Germany" does not necessarily mean the same as "German."
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    BMW is the largest exporter of automobiles from the U.S., because its South Carolina factory is the only assembly location for several models that have worldwide markets. As of now all BMW engines are imported to the U.S. from Germany, but in November 2018 BMW announced that is is considering building a U.S. plant for engines and transmissions. BMWs are designed in Munich, Shanghai and Los Angeles. People (including myself; I drive one) still think of BMWs as German, but are they? Is this term still meaningful?

    Perhaps that sounds like a topic that is better suited to a philosophy forum than for a language discussion, but it raises the question "what does the word 'German' [or any other nationality] really mean?" Legal definitions do not necessarily reflect language use, and "Made in Germany" does not necessarily mean the same as "German."
    In the 1980s I bought a Walther PPKs pistol. The box and gun both said "made in Germany". But the entire gun was produced in Portugal. The guns arrived in Germany where a technician installed the rubber grips (one screw installation). That "final assembly" enabled them to say "made in Germany".

    In the same era the Porsche 928 was built in Spain. But the seats were installed in Germany. The cars was sold as "made in Germany".

    "Made in Germany" is more or less a "brand" not a statement of fact. The "made in Germany" brand has come to mean precision and supreme engineering. It really does not mean it was actually made in Germany.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Like many people, I daresay, I associate BMW with being a "German" car company, although it's a multinational - albeit with headquarters still in Munich. But it apparently has factories all over the world and if you buy a BMW car or motorcycle nowadays, the chances are it wasn't actually "Made in Germany".
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    What does all that have to do with the question, which was about this:
    1. What nationality is BMW? ~It is German.
    ...
    Is question1 idiomatic?
    ?
    Yes it is (see post 2), and the response in the example is also accurate (BMW is a German company).

    I don't see how the location of the company's manufacturing and assembly lines has any bearing on whether the sentence is idiomatic.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I don't think it's apt to apply the specific word "nationality" to a company.

    And many of the succeeding comments have shown why. Companies, unlike human bodies, can have parts and pieces in widely separated places. They often can't be localized. A human body is in one specific place and came into existence in one specific place. If a person wants to legally be associated with another nation they have to go through a legal process to accomplish that. And their whole body goes as a package. They can't leave their right arm and left foot behind as American citizens while the rest of their body becomes Swiss. It's all or nothing. They're either a legal citizen of that country or they're not.

    It's not that simple with a company.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    What is unidiomatic about asking "what nationality is BMW?" BMW is German. Apple is American. Huawei is Chinese. If Apple makes its computers and phones using chips from China, it doesn't make the company part American and part Chinese. The company is not its products; it's a legal entity which has a head office in a single country, and so has a nationality.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    What is unidiomatic about asking "what nationality is BMW?" BMW is German. Apple is American. Huawei is Chinese. If Apple makes its computers and phones using chips from China, it doesn't make the company part American and part Chinese. The company is not its products; it's a legal entity which has a head office in a single country, and so has a nationality.
    "Nationality" is (I just decided) the wrong word. People have a nationality. Things do not. They have a country of origin. Some things, (songs, for instance) can reflect the national traditions and may have a nationality. And cuisine can have a nationality as it reflects traditions. But not cars. Cars have a country of origin.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    it's a legal entity which has a head office in a single country, and so has a nationality.
    I don't think it does. Being headquartered in a country doesn't bestow "nationality" in my mind.

    Apple is an American company. But it can't travel on an American passport. It's simply headquartered there.
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Packard, BMW isn't a car. It's a company.

    Answer "It's German."
    Question to get that answer. "What nationality is BMW?"

    What's the problem? What could be simpler?

    But it can't travel on an American passport.
    Is that a serious comment?
     

    pachanga7

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Hello,

    This seems to be a dialectical difference between BE and AE. Like my compatriots I find it odd to refer to a product as having a nationality, but accept that for Brits it’s perfectly all right.

    As an American I would tend to ask the question this way:

    Where are BMWs made?
    Who makes BMWs?
    What country makes BMWs?

    Hope that may be of help. :)
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I don't have a problem in BE with saying "BMW is/was a German company", but I agree that it sounds odd to ask what nationality the company is.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I think we can say that songs and cuisine can have a nationality
    I wouldn't.

    I think I only use "nationality" for people.

    What nationality is this song? :thumbsdown: / What country is this song from? :thumbsup:
    What nationality is this cuisine? :thumbsdown: / What country is this cuisine from? :thumbsup: / What country's cuisine is this? :thumbsup:
    What nationality is BMW? :thumbsdown: / What country produces BMWs? :thumbsup: / What country is BMW headquartered in? :thumbsup:
     

    bennymix

    Senior Member
    I wouldn't.

    I think I only use "nationality" for people.

    What nationality is this song? :thumbsdown: / What country is this song from? :thumbsup:
    What nationality is this cuisine? :thumbsdown: / What country is this cuisine from? :thumbsup: / What country's cuisine is this? :thumbsup:
    What nationality is BMW? :thumbsdown: / What country produces BMWs? :thumbsup: / What country is BMW headquartered in? :thumbsup:
    OK. But on the other hand, if you heard any of your 'thumbs down' phrases you'd instantly know what was meant. Plain as day.

    Indeed, your first suggestion might introduce confusion. If a Portuguese man, living in Mexico, writes a Portuguese song (in the language, reflecting the culture), and it's first played on Mexican radio, and then it's picked up in the US by its Portuguese community as well as in Portugal, where is it from?

    I note that Packard has made this point well, above (#22)

    Some things, (songs, for instance) can reflect the national traditions and may have a nationality. And cuisine can have a nationality as it reflects traditions. But not cars. Cars have a country of origin.

    I think he'd agree it's a Portuguese song.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    if you heard any of your 'thumbs down' phrases you'd instantly know what was meant.
    That's not the point. :D Lots of things are understandable but not idiomatic.
    your first suggestion might introduce confusion.
    I also didn't say the answer would always be straightforward. This is no different from asking someone, for example, "What nationality are you?" and the answer turns out to be complicated because each of their parents is from a different country, they grew up in two other countries, and they have three passports. ;)
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    There is a species of frog that exists only in Colombia. Does that frog have a nationality?
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Random House, an AE dictionary, has
    the relationship of property, holdings, etc., to a particular nation, or to one or more of its members:
    the nationality of a ship.
    So if a ship can have a nationality, why can't a shipbuilder (or car builder like BMW)?
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Isn't it because a ship has to fly a flag displaying which country it's registered to - and that's it's "nationality"?
    Just think aloud here: Can a patent or a copyright have a nationality? It would be registered to a specific country.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    Re #22: Yes,we say "national anthem/symbol", etc., but I don't think we can say "The Star-Spangled Banner" has 'American nationality'".
     
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    pachanga7

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Wikipedia says:

    Nationality is a legal relationship between an individual person and a state.[1]Nationality affords the state jurisdiction over the person and affords the person the protection of the state.

    Machines, objects, creative output and other living creatures aside from humans can certainly be said to be associated with a nation or its geographical area, but to impute to them legal standing such as an actual person might have with respect to that nation is to misspeak, in my humble opinion.

    Also, I don’t agree with Random House. Never thought I would say that, but there you go!

    And what does their definition mean by “the relationship of property, holdings, etc., to a particular nation, or to one or more of its members:
    the nationality of a ship.”?

    So am I a member of the nation, and therefore my favorite pair of pajamas has a nationality?!!

    Property at least has a legal nature to it, I will say that. But a BMW is a car first, property maybe.
     
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    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I’m not sure I’d know how to answer that question if I were asked it. :D I don’t think the question clearly elicits the country.
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I would like to explain that the worksheet from the course New Total English Starter is about nationalities. It is entitled "Who and where?" and contains two sets of cards: a set of name/object cards, eg. Gisele Bundchen, Barack and Michele Obama, curry, BMW, Toyota cars ... , and a set of nationality cards, e.g. Brazilian, German, Italian, Japanese ... .
    If a student picks up a name card and a nationality card which is factually incorrect, he or she has to make a negative statement and then ask a nationality question.

    Gisele Bündchen (a model) isn't German. What nationality is she? ~ She's Brazilian.

    BMW ( a car company) isn't Italian. What nationality is it? ~It's German.

    Toyota cars aren't Chinese. What nationality are they. ~They are Japanese.

    Curry (food) isn't Spanish. What nationality is it? ~It's Indian.

    In Polish we can only say "what nationality is he/she/they" but not "what nationality is BMW."
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    But a BMW is a car first,
    The question is about the nationality of the German company, BMW, not about a car built by that company. BMW, not a BMW. BMW is a company first. If it was not, there could be no car to call "a BMW". :rolleyes:

    The Wikipedia article referred to above is, like all Wikipedia articles, open to question. In this case it deals with only one meaning of nationality.

    wolfbm 1, that seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable exercise. Others may disagree.
     
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