I’m sure most people are aware of the fact that Xerox is a brand name that, through frequent usage, has all but taken the place of its product (the photocopy). I grew up all my life using ‘xerox’ as a regular verb/noun, with no idea of it as a brand, and I guess that’s kind of the reason why the company has been trying so hard to get people to break that habit. I understand why it wants to protect the trademark, but in a weird sort of way, it feels like it’s something Xerox should be proud of. I mean, a company that’s managed to become THE dominant name in its corner of the industry, enough to cross over into the common lexicon must have done something right, no?
Obviously, the current example that comes to mind is Google. In fact, I got some feedback on my captioning the other day, saying it wasn’t necessary to capitalise the G in ‘googling’ – most dictionaries now recognise it as a common verb. (I don’t think Google is panicking nearly as much as Xerox did.) It’s a fascinating idea for me, this micro-study on how language evolves and changes with time (whether for better or for worse will always be up for debate). I went to look up other brands that have now become common words, and, no surprises, the list is pretty long.
So, I thought I’d do a little quiz of sorts, see how many of these things have been ingrained into the general vocabulary. I’ve written a short passage below, using the generic words in place of 10 different brand names. See if you can figure out which brand names they actually apply to! (Clue: There’s one on every sentence of the story.)
This morning, the hawker centre uncle had to pack my noodles in a extruded polystyrene foam box. Silly me, I’d forgotten to take my plastic storage container. The plastic bag bit through my flesh, so I applied an adhesive bandage on my finger when I got to work. I was already late, so I hurried into the meeting room and loaded up my slide show presentation program. When I got back to my desk after the meeting, I saw a sticky note on my computer, telling me to collect a package at the reception. I took the lift down to the first floor, humming along to the elevator music. I got back to my desk and unwrapped my package, delicately bundled in inflated cushioning. It was a liquid motion lamp! Klutzy me would have to be careful with it – no amount of cyanoacrylate adhesive would put this back together if I broke it! No, it would have to go straight into the waste container then.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, but try not to use a search engine to find the answers, OK? 😉