This post could also be subtitled "Cultural References You Completely Missed For Literally Decades". For those not much into British humour, I am referring to "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams. If you liked Monty Python you would probably like Hitchhiker; if not, well, you could probably skip reading the rest of this post and feel none the worse for wear for it. For the record, I don't look up to or down at anyone who finds either of these tedious and unfunny; being a live-and-let-live kinda guy, I don't consider either to be "an acquired taste" or "more sophisticated" or any of that (heck, I find farts -- even mine -- well, okay, especially mine -- funny). It's different and that's that.
At any rate, I read the book back in the early 1980s and when I read about this 'Ford Prefect' character I thought it was kind of funny, but didn't think it meant anything other than that it was a goofy name. For a bit of background, Ford is an alien who hitchhiked to Earth
from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse. Arthur Dent’s failure to suspect this reflects the care with which his friend blended himself into human society - after a fairly shaky start. When he first arrived fifteen years ago, the minimal research he had done had suggested to him that the name ‘Ford Prefect’ would be nicely inconspicuous.
Being a young man from the midwest, I had no idea that 'Ford Prefect' was anything other than an unusual name for someone to pick out of a hat. And so I went for many years, happily reading the books and not bothering to ponder many of the references therein very much.
Until this whole Internets thing came along. And only recently did I do a search -- for reasons I hereby state that I do not remember -- for "Ford Prefect" and discover, lo and behold, it was a car! Since that's what we do here, I figured it was ripe for a post.
Except that I know virtually nothing about the Ford Prefect automobile.
Not like that's ever stopped me before. . . .