Friday, April 29, 2011


Start buying all your Louie in the hood
And your sprung, on the two for one
Fake Louie at the swap meet, son
-Sir Mixalot, "Swap Meet Louie"

My mom calls margarine Oleo. Its a really old term, back when the official name was Oleomargarine. As I wrote about a while back, that's actually closer to the real scientific name of the stuff than what we call it today, but before I researched it, I thought that perhaps Oleo was the brand name of a margarine she grew up with.

We do that a lot. Kleenex instead of facial tissue for example, using a well-known, established brand name for a product. You have to figure companies love it when their brand becomes so well known and has such market saturation that people think that's the official name of anyone's product of the same type.

Here are a few other examples of this phenomenon in American culture:

Bubble wrap - the official name is Inflated Cushioning
Dumpster - supposed to be Front Loader Waste Container
Chapstik - Lip Balm
Lava Lamp - Liquid Motion Lamp
Frisbee - Flying Disc
Hacky Sack - Foot Bag
Hula Hoop - Toy Hoop
Jet Ski - Stand-Up Personal Watercraft
Band Aid - Adhesive Bandage
Jacuzzi - Whirlpool Bath
Astroturf - Artificial Turf
JumboTron - Large Screen Television
Ping Pong - Table Tennis
Bondo - Auto Body Filler
Brillo or SOS Pad - Steel Wool Pad
Crazy Glue - Fast-Acting Glue
Walkman - Portable Cassette Player
Formica - Plastic Wood Laminate
Crock Pot - Slow Cooker
Google - Search Engine
I-Pod - Portable MP3 Player
LazyBoy - Recliner
Pam - non stick cooking spray
Photoshop - computer image manipulation program
Post-It Notes - Sticky Notes
Scotch Tape - transparent adhesive tape
Q-Tips - Cotton Swabs
Walkie-Talkie - portable two way radio
Rollerblade - In line skate
Sharpie - Permanent Marker
Teflon Pan - Pan with non stick coating
Taser - Electroshock weapon
Tupperware - modular food storage container
Vaseline - Petroleum Jelly
Tonka - toy truck
White-Out - Correctional Fluid
Winnebago - Recreational Vehicle
Xerox - Photocopier
Styrofoam - extruded polystyrene foam

Bayer Genuine AspirinSome products used to be a brand name but over time lost that privilege, a danger that companies have to be aware of. For example, Aspirin used to be trademarked by Bayer AG. Some others: dry ice, cellophane, escalator, kerosene, thermos, trampoline, video tape, yo-yo, and zipper.

Some are more regional than others, I never hear anyone around here call asphalt "Tarmac" or use "hoover" when they mean vacuum. Others are going out of use because they are dated or have lost cultural impact, such as Cuisinart for food processor. Still, its interesting to see how this works and I wonder why some catch on when most don't.


LordSomber said...

My father still calls the refrigerator the "ice box."

"Hoover" is more Australian usage. I've also heard "biro" used for "ballpoint pen." (Name comes from the guy who first patented it.) Also, Winnebagos are called "caravans" down under.

Tina said...

It seems to me that the ones that go generic are those where a single company dominated the market with a genuinely new concept product to a degree that the only alternatives either were truly generic or were of such restricted access as to be unknown.

A recent addition I catch myself using is "swiffer" - I actually use the Swiffer brand, but now I also call the action "swiffering" . It used to be "dust mopping".

Eric said...

And of course anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line, every soft drink is refereed to as a coke.

Some common ones I often hear and use: any line-fed yard trimmer is referred to as a 'weed eater', although Weed Eater is just a brand of such trimmers.

"Brush-hogging" your pasture is used as a term for hauling any type of large (5 feet or more) spinning rotary blade behind a tractor... though I'm not at all sure if the Brush Hog brand is still around (haven't seen an actual Brush Hog for at least 20 years).

Any kind of large synthetic or plastic square/rectangular tarp gets called "visqueen".

Christopher Taylor said...

Weed Eater is a good one, I think that's used pretty much everywhere and its a classic example of how this works.