Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Proper Nouns Used Generically

As a kid, I never heard anyone refer to tissues as Kleenex, so I always thought it was an odd example for a word that's trademarked or copyrighted but used generically. I thought my teachers were stretching for examples because they didn't know that many, which might also be true. My mother has always said, "Tampax," and my grandmother used to say, "Pampers," but both of those examples are very dated.

But I do notice now a lot more words creeping into our collective vocabulary that are indeed proper nouns (not always trademarked, as in Champagne, for example). Here are a few of my favorites, with the food-related words listed first:

  • Tupperware
  • Champagne
  • Cuisinart
  • Ziplock bags
  • Saran Wrap (sent in by Jennifer Tomaiolo)
  • Thermos (sent in by Jennifer Tomaiolo)
  • Velcro
  • Laundromat (this one is a "service mark" and is still capitalized in Merriam-Webster's)
  • App Store
  • Spinning
  • Bikram Yoga
  • Frisbee
  • Band-Aids (sent in by Joseph Toni)
  • Q-Tip (sent in by Joseph Toni)
Got any more good ones?

P.S. Never in all my time in England did anyone say, "vacuum." It's Hoover or bust.

4 comments:

Jill E. Duffy said...

I thought of another one: Ziplock bags. I see TV food celebrities always struggle to say "zip-top bags."

Meredith Popolo said...

I don't think I've ever used the word licorice. Always Twizzler to me.

ba said...

My favorite to mention to my class is Heroin - TM of the Bayer corporation, much like Aspirin, as it was marketed for its "Heroic" effect on pain.

Jill E. Duffy said...

ba's comment above made me really curious to learn more. It seems Bayer did indeed hold a trademark on the name Heroin, but only from 1895 until World War I. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heroin#Etymology

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