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Company Names as Verbs or Proprietary Eponyms: Do You Use These Brand Terms?

While talking with a friend recently, I suddenly noticed the number of company names I was using as verbs. If you’ve never used, “Google” as a verb meaning, “to search the Internet for information about (a person, topic, etc.)” according to Dictionary.com, then you are a better person than me.

Also, when you use a trademarked company name to describe a generic type of item, you’re using a proprietary eponym. This happens so often that you may not even notice it!

So, slowly but surely, I started thinking of other company names I use as verbs or generic terms as well:

TiVo: Several people at QLP (including myself) who do not actually own a TiVo to record our favorite shows have used this name to indicate anytime they want to or have already recorded a TV show.

Example: “Don’t tell me what happened last night on ‘The Office’! I TiVo’d it.”

"Facebook says he updated his status at 8:43 PM, but that's when he was supposed to be too busy to go out!"

Facebook: I’m from the generation when Facebook was getting popular while it was still “exclusive” and you had to have a school email address (.edu) to register. So, it was quite an accomplishment for my peers and me to get invited to this social networking site and create a profile. I’ve been conditioned to check it daily and I know my friends who also rely on this SM site also check it regularly. It’s become a verb in my vocabulary to mean “to check in on someone on the social media network,” and I say it without really thinking.

Example: “I’ll Facebook him when I get home and ask where he was.”

Along with Facebook, I think it’s interesting to note how “writing” on someone’s wall doesn’t have anything to do with a physical wall or graffiti. I can’t count the number of times I’ve told someone: “I wrote on their wall a couple hours ago, but haven’t heard back yet.” Just another way Mark Zuckerberg is slowly taking over the world…

Kleenex: Who says “Can you hand me a facial tissue?” If you can think of someone, then congratulations, because I can’t. I always ask for a Kleenex, but if I get a Puff facial tissue or some generic brand, I won’t complain or not use it. I’m just so used to saying Kleenex for some reason or another. I’m not sure if this what they were hoping to have their product become the go-to word for facial tissues, but it worked for me.

Example: “Do you have any Kleenex? My nose is running.”

"Time to make the Xeroxes!"

Xerox: Okay, a bit of a disclaimer on this one. I personally have never said, “I’m going to make a Xerox of these sales figures.” I’ve always just said, “I’m going to go copy these sales figures.” However, after talking with friends and family, it seems that a lot of people use this company’s name to mean duplicating a sheet of paper or file. It’s easy to see why though since the company has been around since 1908 and has been a mainstay in every office building worldwide.

Photoshop: Before the days of this wonderful photo-editing software, I can’t imagine how people edited their pictures. I guess with a red-eye pen and a pair of scissors, maybe? Anywho, now anytime I see a friend’s collection of photos they’re always like, “I have to Photoshop them a bit before I’ll consider them finished.” This product has come quite a long way since 1987 when its creator, Thomas Knoll, was a PhD student at University of Michigan!

Do you use any of these names as verbs? Can you think of any other company names that you use as a verb or as a go-to term? Sound off below!



Amy Swanson

Amy is one of Quality Logo Products’ content developers and social media coordinators. She is a self-professed newspaper nerd and thoroughly enjoys reading business and financial news and having impromptu discussions about it. Oh yeah, she’s “one of those” people! A true Midwestern girl by nature, she loves riding her bike, photography, and the Chicago Cubs. You can connect with Amy on

Comments

  1. JPorretto

    Oh my goodness, please tell me you’ve seen this “Christmas card”:

    Dear Yahoo,

    I’ve never heard anyone say, “I don’t know, let’s Yahoo! it…” just saying…

    Sincerely, Google

    • amy

      You guys gave so many examples that never crossed my mind before! I think this could turn into a series ;)

  2. Ellyn Gilmore

    I have to laugh at your last comment about Photoshop because I remember when my mom sent out photos in our Christmas cards we would first have to go through all of them and use the red eye pen!! Haha that seems like such an ancient way of doing things but it really wasn’t that long ago!! Great post Amy!!

    • amy

      I totally remember those red eye pens!! I could never really get them to work LOL

  3. Juliette Vincent

    Excellent post, Amy! I hadn’t even thought about it but I use almost all of those!

    Does it count if I say “I’m planning on Whoing tonight” when I mean “I’m planning on watching many episodes of Doctor Who tonight”? ;)

    • amy

      Hahaha, that’s too funny, Juliette! I think it totally counts ;)

  4. Mandy Kilinskis

    I say “Google it” so often that Google should really start paying me royalties. And I don’t use “TiVo,” but I do say “DVR” instead of “record.”

    Also, I ask for someone to pass me “tissues,” but not “facial tissues.” And yet we discovered that I have a box of Kleenex on my desk. Weird.

    I’m also guilty of using: band-aid, frisbee, scotch tape, popsicle, white-out, jello, and velcro, just to name a few. I’m sure that I use a TON more on a daily basis. Great post, Amy!

    • Jen

      Velcro! That’s a good one Mandy. But I was thinking about it…what else could you call it? Double sided hook and eye fabric? Lame. It will always be velcro.

      • amy

        Velcro never crossed my mind before, craziness!! Yeah, I’m with Jen. It will always be Velcro, regardless of what brand I’m buying.

        • Gandalf

          You’ll appreciate my email signature then:

          Veni, Vidi, Velcro: I came, I saw, I stuck around

          (Punchline: I stayed in a college town after graduating from the college here.)

  5. Rachel

    Really cool post, Amy! I’m definitely guilty of a lot of these–particularly Googling and Facebooking. I was just looking at one of the links on the Wikipedia page you link to … never knew “escalator” was a proprietary eponym! Learn something new every day. :)

    • amy

      It’s crazy! I never knew that were so many of these either. You could literally do a blog series on these!

  6. Jen

    I use Post-it. For example “Can you write it on a Post-in and stick it to the page?”

    I’ve also heard people ask for “Lays” instead of potato chips and call any type/brand of soda “Coke” (even sprite and orange soda, it’s weird).

    This is such a fun post Amy! I’m going to be thinking about these all day now, lol.

    • amy

      Using “Lays” is a new one, I’d never heard of that one before. I used to live down south and they do say, “Coke” for every carbonated beverage regardless of whether it’s Coke or not. I’m sure their marketers aren’t complaining though ;)

  7. Jill Tooley

    I’m guilty of all of the same words people already mentioned, and then some. Here are a couple of others I use on occasion:

    *Velveeta, when referring to any block of “cheese product”

    *Tombstone, when referring to any frozen pizza

    *Emergen-C (the effervescent vitamin C booster), for any generic immunity booster

    *Tylenol, when referring to pain reliever

    I’m sure there are more, too. Interesting post! We all learned something new today. :)

    • amy

      I always say, “Tylenol” for any pain reliever too, even if it’s “Advil”. I do the same thing with “Aleve”, even if I use generic LOL. I’m so glad other people found this interesting too!!

  8. Amanda

    Great post Amy! I have always found this kind of stuff to be super interesting. I use most of these pretty often. The biggest one for me is saying Kleenex, even though I prefer Puffs, lol. I’ve heard people call crayons “Crayolas” before. And I call any kind of “normal tape” Scotch tape whether it’s generic or not. I also always say Band Aid. I wonder if these companies are happy to have people calling generics their name, or if it makes them feel like their product gets looked over for the generic instead…..

    • amy

      I know we’ve had this discussion before, but “Crayolas” are the ‘it’ crayons for me. They don’t have any substitute whatsoever (I’m looking at you “Roseart” – pffft).

      I also always call any kind of tape, “Scotch” tape even though I don’t always buy the name brand stuff. LOL

      You know, I’m not sure how marketers feel about it. I think there’s advantages and disadvantages to it. On the plus side, it’s free advertising when someone says, “Hand me a Band Aid”. But on the other side, it could be tarnishing their name brand too if a crappy generic is used instead. I’d love to ask them and find out, because I’ve always been curious about that too!

      • Amanda

        LOL Seriously, Rosearts are the worst! Super waxy and hardly any color. Plus, Crayolas are only $0.25 at Walmart when it’s back to school time. =) I still love crayons!

        • amy

          I can still remember being in tears when my mom bought me a box of Roseart crayons for my first day in elementary school instead of Crayola crayons LOL. Obviously, my brand loyalty started at an early age ;)

  9. Eric

    Really interesting article, Amy! Made me sit and think to myself how many of those I use.

    I highly doubt any company with a brand name so iconic is going to ever have a problem with storebrand items. I’m sitting here, drinking the storebrand can of “Cherry Cola” I bought in a 12-pack from Jewel. I think it was about .5 sips into the soda that made it more than painfully clear why the original Coca-Cola sells as well as it does. In this case, I’d prefer to buy name-brand. Any proprietary recipe like that – i.e., with “secret ingredients” – usually suggests you’re better off buying name-brand. Ever pick up a bottle of those imitation colognes or perfumes and smell them? Yeah. They’re a good reason you’re paying $6 instead of $60.

    What am I most guilty of? Every damn time I’m at a restaurant, when it comes time to let them know what I’d like to drink, I always, always say, “I’ll have a Coke.” And, sometimes, I’ll hear an “Is Pepsi alright?” in response (has anyone ever actually disagreed when they ask you that?!?!).

    • amy

      There are some products that I have to buy name brand. There’s just no substitution in my mind LOL.

      I’m a Coke girl over Pepsi, so when a waiter/ess asks, “Is Pepsi alright?” part of me wants to say, “Actually, no it’s not alright. I’ll just have water. Thanks.” But then I bite my tongue and just say, “Oh, yeah that’s fine”. I also wonder if anyone has actually done that LOL

  10. Candice J.

    This is a great post Amy! I am guilty of using a lot of these and more. One I see and use often is “Skyped”. Nobody asks if you want to web chat anymore it’s all about if you want to “Skype” later on. To be honest, if there is another platform to do web chats I wouldn’t even know because to me Skype overshadows them all and it’s FREE!! (For just web chats) Everybody loves free! Another one I can state that my whole family is bad about is “I-Pod”. It doesn’t matter if it truly is an I-Pod or just an MP3 player. If it’s not a Walkman (oops there’s another one) or a radio/stereo that’s portable it’s an I-Pod. I recall a situation where I was speaking with my mother about some product. We both were unclear so we decided to look it up. To search she went to yahoo search engine and immediately I replied “HOLD UP LADY!” If we are looking up ANYTHING we are going to “GOOGLE IT” in this household. She than looked at me like I was absolutely crazy, but that’s how strong Google’s brand is. If I ever have to research anything the ONLY search engine I use is Google. I know there are other search engines but none compare to Google. I mean Google has managed to turn its name into a verb! It is now a literal action that you can perform and when you instruct somebody to do it they know exactly what you mean. Now if somebody told me to “Yahoo” I’d be so very lost. How do you “Yahoo” and if I did somebody “Yahooed” me I’m not too sure I’d like it. After reading this post I am going to become so much more aware of the things I say and the brand names I use.

    • amy

      Your comment had me cracking up, Candice! “How do you ‘Yahoo’ and if somebody ‘Yahooed’ me I’m not too sure I’d like it.” So true!!! My fingers have become so used to typing in google.com that I would have to probably take a few tries and mentally tell myself to type yahoo.com or bing.com instead LOL

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  13. outeast

    My diacetylmorphine habit has caused much confusion when I’ve been trying to source product on what I believe to be colloquially known as ‘the street’. But I would never want to infringe on Bayer’s trademark (I know it’s expired, but still – I’m a man of principle).

    (This being the Internet, I’d probably better add that this is of course a silly joke. But it’s a fact that ‘heroin’ was initially a Bayer brand name.)

  14. Kim

    Great blog post!

    What about YouTube!

    “I just YouTubed this awesome Mr. Rogers video, you should check it out!”

    :)

  15. akie

    can use a verb as a company name

  16. Gilly

    What if it’s not a brand name e.g. someone ‘butters’ you a sandwich, but doesn’t actually use butter – but a spread. Is there a word or phrase or term for that?

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