BMW's Beamer Nickname: Where Did It Come From?

The brilliantly silly 2003 comedy "Bruce Almighty" features a scene in which Jim Carrey's Bruce Nolan, equipped with all of Morgan Freeman's God's powers, sees fit to use them to upgrade his car. Sitting behind the wheel of a rather majestic Saleen S7 (rumored to be Carrey's own), some passers-by approach to gawk. "It gets me from A to B," Nolan modestly replies.

This tongue-in-cheek exchange encapsulates vastly different attitudes to car ownership. From a simple mode of transport to a flashy status symbol, a car is all things to all people. The most acclaimed car manufacturers of all time, naturally, develop machines that have nothing more than a mythos of their own about them.

Car culture is a community affair, and BMW admirers delight in swapping stories about their beloved Beamers and their histories. Where did this nickname come from, though? It seems to have its roots in BMW motorcycles rather than cars.

The story of the Beamer nickname

The BMW brand was established in 1916. The acronym for the German company is short for Bayerische Motoren Werke, the name adopted by the brand when it entered the motor vehicle business early in its life. This name, needless to say, can be quite the mouthful, and so can Bee-Em-Double-You, for that matter. Unsurprisingly, vehicles the company developed soon became known by catchier nicknames.

Car enthusiasts will often refer to a model of the BMW brand as a Beamer or Beemer. According to BMW, however, this is technically incorrect. The brand was originally only in the motorcycle business. When it began to rise to prominence worldwide, a UK motorcycle manufacturer's works seemed to inspire these iconic nicknames.

As the name suggests, the British Birmingham Small Arms Company Ltd began as a weapons developer. Its first motorcycle was created in 1910, and the division continued its work apace for several decades until 1973. It was eventually saved from bankruptcy, and a crucial part of BSA's legacy remains — the nickname of its classic motorcycles: Beezer.

As BMW tells it, the nickname Beamer or Beemer arose from there.

When is a Beamer not a Beamer?

The characteristic stylish vehicles of the BMW brand aren't only known as Beamers/Beemers, however. Another common name for one is Bimmer, which also has an intriguing root: A fan magazine for the manufacturer called "Bimmer" ensured that this name entered the gearheads' lexicon.

BMW, however, notes the technicality — a Beamer or Beemer is only a BMW motorcycle, while a Bimmer is a BMW car and vehicle more generally. Adding a further wrinkle to proceedings, the vehicles have other nicknames worldwide. For example, in Russia, Boomer is a commonly-used term.

Ultimately, the admiration of a Beamer, Beemer, Bimmer, Boomer (or any other title besides) seems to be a universal trait for car enthusiasts. The company's history of innovation, style, and performance stretches for over a century (some incredible BMW concept cars have emerged). There's no mistaking the topic of discussion, whichever nickname is used, whether strictly applicable or not.