This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Nuts and Bolts: genericide

How do you get the dust out of your carpets?

I tend to hoover mine, even though the brand of vacuum cleaner I own is...actually, I haven't the faintest idea what brand it is. But I don't think it's Hoover.

In the same way, I doubt the aspirin in my medicine cabinet is anything to do with the company (Bayer) which first sold the drug under the trade name Aspirin, or that the rollerblades that were so fashionable when my children were teenagers were made by

A trade name that's used as a common noun in this way is called a generonym. It's obviously a sign of great success on the part of the named company, but it's a rare case of all publicity not being good publicity because it means that people have stopped recognising that a Hoover vacuum cleaner, for example, is anything special.

This part of the process is called genericide.

Do you remember walkmen? 

Right. And have you any idea at all who made yours?

Thought not.

Word To Use Today: aspirin, perhaps. This word was coined by the company Bayer AG using the scientific name for meadowsweet, Spirea ulmaria, from whence the stuff was extracted.

Illustration by Janus Kops (Public Domain in the US because it's old). 

The scientific name of Meadowsweet is now Filpendula ulmaria, though.

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