The inter-webs have some fascinating and wild information, in addition to useful resources. It’s amazing what I learn when I research for answers to some of my stray thoughts or peculiar questions.
Writers such as I have many stray thoughts and peculiar questions.
My investigation this week was to discover: “Why do we always call facial tissue Kleenex?”
Amazingly, there are countless product names we are actually using wrong. Instead of its standard product name, we are regularly using their trademarked name, such as the case with Kleenex, which we use instead of facial tissue.
How does this happen?
A trademark can become “genericized” if the mark becomes identified with a type of product or service in the public’s mind, rather than a particular brand. Aspirin, yo-yos, and cellophane became generic through consumer misuse of the trademarks to refer to these products. (Justia.com)
Do companies fight back when their trademark becomes genericized? Yes. Some companies create advertising campaigns solely to make the public aware that their name is actually a trademark. (Business Times)
Today, I’m sharing the Names of 21 Everyday Products We Are Using Wrong, the companies’ trademarks so successful that they eventually came to represent an entire category. And you may learn some fun history along the way.
Which brand names do you use?
Band-aid – Trademarked by Johnson & Johnson, I can recall using no other name for adhesive bandages.
Bubble wrap: Could it be known by any other name? Yep. These packing sheets, trademarked by the Sealed Air Corporation, are inflated cushioning.
Chapstick: Trademarked by Wyeth Consumer Healthcare, we should be calling it lip balm if we buy any other brand.
Dumpster: The front loader waste containers were Dempster Dumpsters, created by Dempster Brothers, Inc.
Kleenex: The facial tissue was introduced in 1924 by the company Kimberly-Clark to initially remove cold cream. After 60% of users started using the disposable cloths for blowing their nose, it was eventually rebranded.
La-Z-Boy: As a reclining chair, we often call them by the name of the original owner, La-Z-Boy, Inc. (And they make much more than recliners – ask Brooke Shields!)
Photoshop: Was that picture photoshopped? Well, maybe – if you actually used the product from Adobe Systems. Otherwise, any other brand is photo manipulation software.
Plexiglas: This brand (with only one “s”) is what we’ve named all acrylic glass or polymethyl methacrylate.
Popsicle: As a kid, anything icy on a stick was a popsicle, rarely an ice pop or freezer pop. Now a registered product by Unilever, we can thank a lucky accident by 11-year-old Frank Epperson in 1905, who 20 years later successfully began selling his creation.
Post-it: These convenient notepads by 3M have been copied by other companies, but they can only call them sticky notes.
PowerPoint: Most people know this is the name of the Microsoft software for creating slide show presentations, but do you know of any other software that does the same?
Q-tips: Now owned by Unilever, this product was first called Baby Gays way back in the day. The name was changed in 1926, with “Q” representing “quality.”
Scotch Tape: A term we use all the time. Another product trademarked by 3M, I would never call it clear adhesive tape in conversation.
Sharpie: If you are a Gen-Xer, you probably remember calling permanent black markers “Magic Markers” in school. This was the brand name of the first modern marker pen invented and sold was by Sidney Rosenthal in the 1950s. Walter J. Groft patented a marking pen that held ink in liquid form in its handle and used a felt tip. This patent became the Sharpie pen in 1964. Today, “Magic Marker” isn’t heard near as often as “Sharpie” when you need a permanent marker. (History of Pencils)
Styrofoam: This is a name trademarked by the Dow Chemical Company. Did you know that real Styrofoam has never been made in the shape of a plate, cup, or cooler? Instead, it is made in sheaths for construction projects. We have adopted this name for all those everyday items made from expanded polystyrene.
Superglue: It is really a super glue. Can you call it anything else? Like cyanoacrylate adhesive? Um, no.
Teflon: DuPont’s miraculous wax is associated with non-stick cookware (and mobster John “Teflon Don” Gotti), but it’s merely the tradename for polytetrafluoroethylene. Say that three times, fast. Or even once.
Velcro: Trademarked by the Velcro company, I imagine that any other brand has to be called hook-and-loop fastener.
Wite-Out: Often misspelled “white-out,” this brand trademarked by BIC is what we commonly called any product that covers mistakes on paper. Fun fact: Wite-Out was created by Bette Nesmith Graham, mom of The Monkeys band member, Michael Nesmith. Why yes — I’m showing my age.
Zipcode: The ZIP was an acronym for Zone Improvement System. It was chosen to suggest that the mail travels more efficiently when senders use the “code” in a postal address. The term ZIP Code was originally registered as a service mark by the United States Postal Service in 1976 but expired in 1997. (Wikipedia)
Ziploc: Regardless of whether these handy storage bags are by any other brand, the common name we call them is Ziploc rather than zipper storage bag.
And finally, as a side note to Gen Zs and younger — Google is a brand name. The generic name is internet search engine.
What names have you been using “wrong?” Post them in the comments below!
Other resources used for this post:
Consumer Reports – 15 Product Trademarks That Have Become Victims of Genericization
Digital Synopsis – 50 Common Words You Use Every Day
Gutenberg.org – List of Generic and Genericized Trademarks
Mentalfloss.com – 41 Brand Names People Use as Generic Terms