Language is quite possibly the most complicated and convoluted of man's inventions. There is no physical basis for language at all, just sounds that are linked together that represent things, ideas, feelings, everything really. Some early man (meant in a general non-gender-defining way) grunted a few different syllables and everyone else had to agree that the new sound was the audible representation of tree or fire. It is not like math where, if I have five of something and I take two away, I will always have three left, no matter what vocabulary I use to represent the physical values. By comparison, there is no reason a cat has to be called a cat and not a walnut.

Someone, who was undoubtedly better at remembering names than me, once said that language has split ownership: the person expressing the idea and the person interpreting it. Both have equal right to its meaning. If you've ever tried to communicate with someone who doesn't speak the same language, you can sympathize. What this means is that the listener has just as much right to define a particular term as the person speaking it. If someone wants to say a particular car is Auburn Sienna, more than likely I would call it tan, but in the end we are on the same page.

The color thing I can let slide, I can even tolerate the fact that my feet are currently propped up on an ottoman and not a footrest. I am, however, going to start exercising my right to part ownership of language for one particular word. A word so overused and bastardized I even considered striking it from my vocabulary altogether. Instead of a complete mental delete, I am reclaiming the word. For myself and for car enthusiasts everywhere, I am leading the charge to retake its meaning.

The word? Tuner. That's right, such a simple word with such a relatively simple meaning. Someone who tunes cars. Not fixes cars, nor accessorizes cars, but actual tuning. Improving performance by inventing or re-engineering.

Recently, it seems as though anyone who can install an exhaust system and has had stickers made are considering themselves tuners. They are installers-they haven't tuned anything. There is nothing wrong with being an installer, re-seller, distributor, supplier, etc. Just don't call yourself a tuner. It has a special meaning. Just because I can open a bottle of aspirin, it doesn't make me a pharmacist.

Tuners develop, engineer, test, and then prototype their own parts. If a shop that deals in hard parts has no machinist, no draftsmen or welders on staff, they aren't tuners. If they only have boxes of parts designed and built by another company and all they do is install and/or sell them, they are not tuners.

I remember (old-guy rant) when the word tuner was reserved for companies like Ruf and AMG (before it was purchased by Mercedes). Later, companies like Dinan and Neuspeed came onto the scene (my scene, at least, being a BMW, Porsche and VW guy). They developed their own products; they built things other people weren't building. They went out and raced cars with their parts. They broke them and redesigned them, they beat on them some more and finally came up with something they were willing to release. They could actually be caught in the act of tuning.

There are still plenty of these companies around. I'm not going to name them all, and I'm not going to name the people I think are misusing the term, either. You know who you are, and your customers know. I encourage you, the reader, to start calling people on this. If you go to a shop and they are calling themselves Chuck's Giant Chrome Wheels and Tuning, ask them what they have tuned. Ask them which of the products in their big glass cases were actually developed in-house. If they can't point to anything more advanced than a license plate frame, let them know: they are not, according to convention, a tuner.

I want to make it crystal clear: I am not saying anything negative about install, repair or retail shops. I am simply trying to clear things up for enthusiasts. If we can't even agree on what companies can be called, based on what they do, then it's no wonder why we can't make a universal turbo mounting flange.

By Mike Febbo
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