Classifying Chevy El Camino

How do you clas­sify some­thing like the Chevy El Camino? Is it a truck? pickup truck? car? or some­thing in-​between?

Chevy El Camino: a coupe util­ity? car? truck?

When my son was two years old he used to call pickup trucks “George trucks” after his Uncle George who drove a pickup truck at the time. One day we saw a Chevy El Camino and I asked him “George Truck”. He said quickly “No, not George truck”.

That got me to won­der­ing how he could look at dif­fer­ent sizes and con­fig­u­ra­tions of pickup trucks (with cap, with­out cap, with tail­gate, with­out, two seater, four seater) and iden­tify them as “pick­ups”, while the El Camino was not a pickup. The Aris­totelian view is that there is an essen­tial qual­ity of pickup (a light truck with a cab and a bed and pos­si­bly a tail­gate), while an El Camino would not qual­ify since it is a car with a bed and tail­gate. But one could also employ fuzzy logic — there are degrees of being a pickup truck and while a pickup would = 1, an El Camino would be a par­tial mem­ber, per­haps = 0.5. Another way to look at it is using Venn dia­grams, where the El Camino would be at the inter­sec­tion of Pick­ups and Cars.

Venn dia­gram

In a tax­on­omy the solu­tions could be to

  • have only two cat­e­gories: car and truck, and include the El Camino under car (since it has a car body and is typ­i­cally licensed as a car)
  • have three cat­e­gories (car, truck, hybrid)
  • have three cat­e­gories (car, truck, util­ity vehi­cle) and then have a cou­ple of cat­e­gories below util­ity vehi­cle: sport util­ity vehi­cle (SUV) and coupe util­ity vehicle.

Relat­ing to data and ana­lyt­ics, how we group and cat­e­go­rize data has a lot to do with the mean­ing we derive from the data set. It’s an often hid­den assump­tion in data analy­sis and choos­ing the right cat­e­go­riza­tion impacts infer­ences. Some­times it’s use­ful to use mul­ti­ple cat­e­go­riza­tion schemes to get dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives on the data set.

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