Marketing & Branding

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!