Thursday, May 31, 2012

Well, They’re Words Now

There are words out there that are actually brand names but have become so associated with the product that they’ve become indistinguishable. Heck, there are products that if you call them what they are, no one knows what you’re talking about! Take, for instance…

What We Call It: Thermos
What It Actually Is: Vacuum Flask
Wow, really? Yep, Thermos is a brand name. The proper name is a vacuum flask or, in honor of the inventor, James Dewar, the Dewar flask. In 1904, the Thermos GmbH company formed, naming their vacuum flask from the Greek word Therme, meaning heat. The Thermos was so innovative and popular that the name became the flask.

What We Call It: Q-Tip
What It Actually Is: Cotton Swab
That thing you aren’t supposed to put in your ear is a cotton swab (makes sense). They were invented in the 1920s by Leo Gerstenzang. Despite the whole “never use them on babies” thing now, their original intention was to be used on infants, hence the name he gave them: Baby Gays. Yeah, just let that one sink in for a minute. Anyway, not long after the name was changed to Q-tips Baby Gays, the Q meaning quality and tips for the cotton end. Finally, the Baby Gays was dropped completely. Being the first widely sold cotton swab, the Q-tip name stuck for the every type.

What We Call It: Frisbee
What It Actually Is: Flying Disk
There’s no such thing as “Ultimate Flying Disk” or “Flying Disk Golf”—for a reason. The name Frisbee is synonymous with the flat piece of plastic you toss around. The Frisbee was invented by Walter Fredrick Morrisonand dubbed “Flyin Saucer” (yes, that g is supposed to be missing) and “Pluto Platter” before being picked up by toy company Wham-O and named after a bakery called the Frisbee Pie Company” (that’s a real English name, by the way). Why? Because their pie platters could also be tossed around like Frisbees. Morrison himself never cared for the name, but apparently he was the only one.

What We Call It: Bubble Wrap
What It Actually Is: Inflated Cushioning
Yes, it’s true. That might not be bubble wrap cradling your precious cargo because Bubble Wrap is a specific brand, made by Sealed Air []. It was in vented in 1957 by Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes, who were actually trying to invent plastic wallpaper. That didn’t work, but it was good enough packing material for Fielding to found a company to produce it. Why has the name taken off so much? Maybe because it’s actual bubbles you use to wrap things in.

What We Call It: Crockpot
What It Actually Is: Slow Cooker
Well, that’s exactly what it says on the tin. It cooks things slowly…genius! Although the crockpot has come out relatively recently, in 1971, its name has already become the accepted word for “an electric cooker”.

Interesting, no? Or is it interesting…no? Do you know of any Brand Name names?


  1. I did not know Bubble Wrap was a brand name.

    When I saw the title, I thought for sure you'd reference Xeroxes or TiVo (although, I've been pretty good about using DVR instead).

  2. I think vacuum flask sounds pretty cool. And I too didn't realize Bubble Wrap was a brand name. Thanks for setting me straight!

  3. And Google is now a verb! Band Aid and Hoover are two more that come to mind. Thanks, this was fun:)

  4. I did not know about thermos and bubble wrap. That's kind of cool.

    I was in Russia a few years ago and had to buy band-aids but no one knew what I wanted because Band-Aid is a brand name name and didn't exist there.

  5. Very cool! I can think of a couple of others, Kleenex for instance is actually just a tissue, but people use both words interchangeably. Also I been places where anything fizzy is called a coke. Pretty funny :)

  6. love the tid bits of info! i did not know that about the thermos, but i guess the other names are more familiar. i agree that i use kleenex more than tissue! christy

  7. Now I feel compelled to go get some bubble wrap... just to pop the buttons.

  8. Bubbles. Not buttons. Smacking self upside head now....


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