Maybe it's that no one in my extended family works for Chrysler. Or that until Monday's announcement that it had purchased a controlling stake in the automaker, I'd never even heard of Cerberus Capital Management.
But my first reaction -- before I stopped to consider the impact on Michigan's economy or the U.S. auto industry or Chrysler workers -- was to wonder why a company with $60 billion would name itself after a three-headed monster.
"It is rather an odd choice," Derek Collins, an associate professor of Greek and Latin, agreed when I reached him Tuesday at the University of Michigan's classical studies department.
"A lot of investment groups name themselves after Greek mythological heroes -- Perseus Capital comes to mind -- and with a hero, you at least have some idea what effect they're trying to achieve," Collins observed. "But a three-headed dog who guards the gates of hell? Does that mean that they're guarding your investment ferociously? Or that once you've given them your money, you can never get it out?"
Why not the best?
And even if the company's founders had their hearts set on a monster, why not an A-list monster such as Godzilla or Mothra? Were the rights to those domain names prohibitive? Or was there something especially apt about the relatively obscure Cerberus?
Arthur Verhoogt, an associate professor of papyrology at U-M, describes Cerberus as "sort of a reverse watchdog" who, instead of keeping people out, was intent on keeping the dead souls of Hades in. Think of a mutant Manfred the Mighty Wonder Dog on steroids.
"The main thing is that he was very scary," said Verhoogt, who speculated that scary is precisely the image Cerberus was hoping to project. "Like, 'We've taken over a lot of stuff, so don't even think of taking us on.' "
Did they mean Care-Bear Capital?
But that is not what the company's principals had in mind at all, insisted Peter Duda, a spokesman for New York-based Cerberus.
"As I understand it, he actually was a friendly figure," Duda said, emphasizing the watchdog motif. "He protected people, didn't he?"
I tried this kinder, gentler Cerberus on for size, recalling that Orpheus had once lulled the hound of Hades to sleep by singing to it. (Perhaps this was what UAW President Ron Gettlefinger had in mind when he crooned that the Cerberus buyout would be in the best interests of Chrysler workers.)
But wasn't it also part of the Cerberus myth that poisonous herbs sprouted wherever the monster drooled? How friendly was that?
"I'll have to get back to you," Duda said.
Two hours later, Duda was back with a winning spin. "Cerberus the monster prevented people from entering the underworld," Duda said. "Our firm was founded to keep companies that are in pretty bad shape from entering the underworld."
See? This three-headed, venom-drooling monster is your friend!
And wouldn't "Hellhound" be a great name for a really fast two-seater?