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#1 Robin Fairservice

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 02:50

How should one spell the well known semi-independent suspension's name - De Dion or de Dion? The spelling of D(d)e Dion seems to vary according to the author! I don’t know if that form of rear suspension has been patented. If so, the Patent could provide a definite answer.

I have looked at some of my books on old cars and I have a 1954 book “The Vintage Car” by Cecil Clutton and John Stanford, and they refer to Comte de Dion which would be correct in French (Count of Dion in English), and his cars and engines as De Dion-Bouton. Presumably when referring to the cars and engines, De Dion (using capitals) is correct as this is their legal name. Now when one considers the nomenclature for the semi-independent axle, and referring to it in English, De Dion would be OK, as the English would not be worried about what De meant in another language. (A typical English attitude).

Another book “The Racing Car Development & Design” by Cecil Clutton, Cyril Posthumus & Denis Jenkinson take the same approach for the general layout for automobiles adopted by Comte de Dion and the rear end layout.

Wikipedia can’t make up its mind!:


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#2 Terry Walker

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 05:59

I think of it as a de dion axle. It has become a technical term in its own right, like hotchkiss drive or diesel engine. Or for that matter a sandwich or a cardigan or wellington boots. It's not a trademark, which would require capitalisation, nor is it a personal name in this context. It would be overly pedantic to use a now naturalised English technical expression in its original French family name capitalisation de Dion.

Now I will run for cover before the anorak firestorm hits . . .

Edited by Terry Walker, 05 February 2011 - 06:01.


#3 David McKinney

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 08:07

My tuppence worth:

I think the gentlemen behind it were the Counts de Dion.

But I've never thought you could have a proper name starting with a lower case letter. So it must by a De Dion suspension system

A bit like the De Soto (or DeSoto) car named in honour of Hernando de Soto

#4 Stefan Schmidt

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 08:26

In case of Patrick de Pailler :clap: it is clear... De Pailler :p

#5 Terry Walker

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 08:33

I have consulted a Rover 2000 / 2200 (P6) official factory workshop manual, which uses "de Dion" throughout, except where it starts a sentence. Then it is De Dion, naturally enough. If you feel the need for capitalisation anywhere, it's probably the way to go. I prefer de dion for the axle, de Dion for the personal name. I doubt you'd be kicked in the head (or given a C- , depending on which school) for adopting either of these variations.

#6 arttidesco

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 08:37

I am the last person to refer to in respect of rules of the english linguige but I notice in terms of the use of capitals the Wiki de Dion tube page is consistent with my poor understanding, starts with a capital D in the page header and continues using the small d for the 'of' part of the name and capital D for the name it's self, except when referring to the name of the vehicle manufacturer of the same name.

If you look on the De Dion - Boulton page the vehicle badge suggests the whole vehicle name should all be in capitals rather like FIAT and the alfa in ALFA Romeo, though IIRC FIAT and ALFA are initials which DE DION - BOULTON is not to the best of my knowledge.

#7 2F-001

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 08:38

If you concur with Terry that the term has reached the same level of ubiquity as 'wellington' or 'diesel', and thus has the status of improper noun (or part thereof) then de dion would be your choice. I'm not convinced that it has and, depending on the context and the readership, I think I'd tend to use Hotchkiss drive, Watt's linkage, de Dion suspension - but, probably diesel; it's difficult to draw a line and I'm not convinced one always need to.

With regard to de Dion, I don't think that can be considered a name that's become anglicized (z, not s) so OUP specifically says it should be 'de Dion' unless it appears at the beginning of a sentence when it assumes a capital as per normal sentence construction. Chicago Style concurs. I believe that in the US academic opponents of Chicago are more plentiful (and passionately vociferous) than are those in the UK who disagree with Oxford, but haven't seen any disagreement on that particular point.

However - the script badge for the marque says 'DeDion' (the circular one was all caps, I think) so one might regard that as the official name of the marque. Thus if you ascribe said suspension system to the marque rather than the marque's patron then one might well argue that two capital Ds is correct. But we can then argue about whether the word-space (or lack of) is a part of the name or a matter of typographic representation and therefore to be reinstated in conventionally-styled text.

I feel the worms escaping...

Edited by 2F-001, 05 February 2011 - 08:40.


#8 arttidesco

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 08:42

In case of Patrick de Pailler :clap: it is clear... De Pailler :p


Your too mulch Stefan ! Gruss :wave:

Edited by arttidesco, 05 February 2011 - 08:42.


#9 kayemod

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 09:41

In case of Patrick de Pailler :clap: it is clear... De Pailler :p


De Finitely.


#10 Bloggsworth

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 09:54

My tuppence worth:

I think the gentlemen behind it were the Counts de Dion.

But I've never thought you could have a proper name starting with a lower case letter. So it must by a De Dion suspension system

A bit like the De Soto (or DeSoto) car named in honour of Hernando de Soto



Mr. ffinch would disagree with you on that point...

#11 Terry Walker

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 10:07

We have the family name: de Dion; the motor vehicle name, De Dion Bouton, which was a trade mark; and the name of a suspension design, which has the name acting as an adjective. Family name always de Dion; vehicle name, always as per registered trade mark or corporate usage. No arguments there. In adjectival use for a generic component, probably de Dion is slowly drifting down the same path to lower case as sandwich, but not there yet.

Piece of cake, really.







#12 2F-001

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 10:47

Piece of cake, really.

Not a worm sandwich then?


#13 milestone 11

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 11:13

But I've never thought you could have a proper name starting with a lower case letter. So it must by a De Dion suspension system

My surname starts with a lower case d.


In case of Patrick de Pailler :clap: it is clear... De Pailler :p

?????????????????????????


#14 Terry Walker

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 14:39

Tells us, essentially, Comte de Dion. De Dion Bouton cars.

#15 D-Type

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 20:00

I think in most cases the term is used to mean "De Dion type" rear suspension as opposed to "de Dion designed", ie of the type used by the De Dion car. On that basis, I would vote for "a De Dion rear suspension system." It's like having "Morris Minor rack and pinion steering". It's different with a Chapman strut or a MacPherson strut - they are named for the inventor, or the person who publicly introduced it as the case might be

Incidentally, did the Compte de Dion design the De Dion Bouton car? Or did he simply finance it?



#16 Allan Lupton

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 23:39

Incidentally, did the Compte de Dion design the De Dion Bouton car? Or did he simply finance it?

Georges Bouton and Charles Trépardoux were the engineers originally, so, as you imply, a de Dion axle would have been systeme Bouton if there were any justice (as Trépardoux had left in 1894). Bit late now, though.

#17 Michael Ferner

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 00:05

There is justice, and that's why it's called a De Dion axle - if it wasn't for the Comte, nobody would have ever heard of M. Bouton (Trepardoux had long left the company before the first car was built).

According to your logic, what would be the "just" name for a Ferrari? Enzo "simply" financed them.

Edited by Michael Ferner, 06 February 2011 - 00:09.


#18 David McKinney

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 07:24

Not a good comparison, Michael

Allan's not talking about the car, but the axle

To translate that to a Ferrari context, one might find reference to the Colombo V12 engine. And frequently does :)

#19 Catalina Park

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 08:23

Did Hotchkiss invent the Hotchkiss drive axle?
Looking at the net it appears that he may or may not have.

If so was it the British Albert Hotchkiss or the American Benjamin Hotchkiss? Or was it M.Terrasseat Hotchkiss car? I can't find anything for certain.

At lead we know that de Dion didn't come up with the De Dion axle!

Edited by Catalina Park, 06 February 2011 - 08:34.


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#20 Allan Lupton

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 09:08

"Financed" was and is quite important of course. As David says, when discussing engineering systems or inventions it is quite normal/reasonable to honour the name of the innovator.
As for Hotchkiss drive and Panhard rod, I think those honour the marque that first used them in quantity - except Renault probably used a live rear axle/universally jointed propshaft in 1898, about five years before Hotchkiss & Cie was founded.

OT but it was noticable, when we had to deal with Rolls-Royce, that the abbreviations for the company name were "Rolls" in the sales office and "Royce's" in the technical departments.

#21 Michael Ferner

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 09:46

I'm not sure that the comparison was that bad. I don't have any reference material at hand, but I believe the Comte was very much involved with the technical developments at De Dion, Bouton et Trepardoux, and later De Dion-Bouton. As an aristocrat, he certainly wasn't going to make drawings or engineering calculations, but he must have discussed technical matters with his engineers, and I'm pretty sure that he did so more than e.g. Enzo Ferrari, who I believe didn't have much engineering input. For all I know, de Dion may have personally "invented" the principle behind the famous axle, with the technical execution being provided by Bouton (or another person, alltogether).

The analogy to Hotchkiss drive and Panhard rod is valid, I'd think. René Panhard almost certainly didn't have anything to do with the invention, and Hotchkiss wasn't really the first, as Allan has rightfully pointed out.

#22 Roger Clark

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 11:22

When was the phrase de Dion (however you spell it) first used? Daimler-Benz are usually given credit for introducing it to Grand Prix racing in 1937, although it was actually 1936. Their reasons must have been very different from the 19th century de Dion cars. I have evidence that the phrase was used, in Britain at least, before the second World War but was it generally used when Daimler-Benz introduced it? Harry Miller used the concept on the front of his front-wheel-drive cars. Was this recognised as a de Dion at the time?

#23 Michael Ferner

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 15:02

I believe yes, but I would need to go back to original sources to be sure.

#24 Robin Fairservice

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 04:15

Having started this thread, I now think that the spelling "de Dion" for the rear suspension system named after the Comte de Dion is most probably more correct than the other. Thanks, it has been an interesting read.

#25 Henk

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 15:30

Posted Image

The Comte himself wrote De Dion...

#26 RogerFrench

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 16:40

Apropos not much really, about 25 years ago I had an office in Puteaux very close to Quai de Dion Bouton, or Quai National above. Personal nostalgia.

#27 macoran

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 15:30

In case of Patrick de Pailler :clap: it is clear... De Pailler :p

Smile all you want....it is Depailler


#28 GMACKIE

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 03:01

How about de saxe, De Saxe, desaxe, de Saxe, De-Saxe, et.,etc. I've seen it written so many different ways, it is difficult to fathom which is correct? :confused:

#29 D-Type

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 17:22

How about de saxe, De Saxe, desaxe, de Saxe, De-Saxe, et.,etc. I've seen it written so many different ways, it is difficult to fathom which is correct? :confused:

Since it isn't derived from a name the question is irrelevent. It should be desaxé.

#30 kayemod

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 17:34

Since it isn't derived from a name the question is irrelevent. It should be desaxé.


Or désaxé. To us it means offset cylinders, but its more common meaning in French is unbalanced or unhinged, applied to a person it means a nutter, or in politer conversation, a lunatic.


#31 D-Type

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 20:43

:blush: Whoops! Well it is nearly fifty years since my long-suffering French teacher hammered the accent aigu into my thick skull

#32 GMACKIE

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 22:28

So, is that not "irrelevent" also?

#33 T54

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 03:40

The Comte himself wrote De Dion...


No he did not. A stock certificate always bears the name of the business starting with a capital.
But the name is "comte de Dion", which means "from Dion", a locality in France in probably the 13th or 14th century when the first count was knighted by whichever king or high-power lord was in charge in his neck of the woods.

The name of the axle design however can be subjected to the same law as a stock certificate, meaning that depending of which is implied, the man or the company, it will change from a lower case to a capital.
This is the same in German, where the "Von" prefix means pretty much the same as the "de" in French, meaning... "from". Always preceded by the first name of course, and often with a collection of other last names, most of them with a small "de" before the various "fiefs" (localities) previously owned by the nobleman in question.

I know a thing or two about this because my name begins by such a "particule", and has done so since about 900 AD. :)
I wish I could get a monthly check for that, but the bastards took over in 1789, so I am out of luck, now THEY are the ones on welfare and I am screwed! :eek: :lol:

#34 uechtel

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 08:53

So what did your ancestors have made wrong not to be reinstituted in 1815... :p

Back to topic, things may get even more complicated if you take into account the specialities of different languages. While the Count de Dion may have been of French noblesse, the De-Dion-Achse in the meantime has found its way into common German language and is in fact written like that, with BOTH of the hyphens...

Edited by uechtel, 05 June 2012 - 08:54.


#35 Allan Lupton

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 08:56

Yes T54 "de" "von" "van" "of" appear in names in their respective countries and languages.
There is always a bit of uncertainty when using the names in another language - e.g. I worked for the de Havilland Aircraft Company (in England) whose founder, Captain (later Sir) Geoffrey de Havilland was English. Having written that, I cannot say where the name came from but my guess would be the low countries as "Havilland" is not a French-style word but could be Flemish/Dutch. Probably came across with the huguenots - lot of protestants in the low countries.
Our house style was to use "de" everywhere but we drew the line at the company's aircraft type numbers which were DH 1 to DH 146.

#36 Allan Lupton

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 08:59

Back to topic, things may get even more complicated if you take into account the specialities of different languages. While the Count de Dion may have been of French noblesse, the De-Dion-Achse in the meantime has found its way into common German language and is in fact written like that, with BOTH of the hyphens...

Ah, but as we know, the German language has all its nouns starting with capital letters, no matter whether they are native words or not. Hyphens, on the other hand, I think of as unusual there . .

#37 uechtel

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 09:21

Yes, but in "der Graf de Dion" it is written in lowercase, just like in "Wolfgang von Trips". And without hyphens of course.

#38 David McKinney

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 09:33

Yes T54 "de" "von" "van" "of" appear in names in their respective countries and languages.
There is always a bit of uncertainty when using the names in another language - e.g. I worked for the de Havilland Aircraft Company (in England) whose founder, Captain (later Sir) Geoffrey de Havilland was English. Having written that, I cannot say where the name came from but my guess would be the low countries as "Havilland" is not a French-style word but could be Flemish/Dutch. Probably came across with the huguenots - lot of protestants in the low countries.
Our house style was to use "de" everywhere but we drew the line at the company's aircraft type numbers which were DH 1 to DH 146.

As in Post 2, I would refer to the surname as de Havilland but the aircraft as De Havillands...

#39 D-Type

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 12:35

So, is that not "irrelevent" also?

Not really - it is relevant to my spelling mistake.

I agree it is irrelevant to the topic as a whole, namely capitalisation issues related to proper names: De Dion or de Dion, De Havilland or de Havilland, etc, while the term "désaxé" is not related to proper names and hence is irrelevant to the main topic.

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#40 Allan Lupton

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 13:35

As in Post 2, I would refer to the surname as de Havilland but the aircraft as De Havillands...

Maybe, but we didn't.

#41 David McKinney

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 16:10

I understood your point, Allan. My comment was directed at new readers rather than you :)