Genericization of brand names and trademarks.

Posted: April 23, 2011 in Random facts and WTFs

There is a very interesting phenomenon in Linguistics known as genericization. Sometimes, when a company becomes a pioneer in something, or manages to win a huge popularity amongst consumers, its brand name looses its specificity and becomes applicable to all the things of the same type.

I heard people misusing the above brand-names and trademarks so many times, so even I myself started perceiving them as common everyday words. Fancy sport cars are called “Ferraries” by many nowadays, I heard people saying “I googled” (which, by the way, became “The New Verb of the Year” in 2006) even if they meant that they searched a library database. I frequently hear how people refer to Pixar animation films as “disney cartoons”. The list goes on and on, not to mention the infamous “iPods”, which, in 20% of all cases, have nothing to do with the portable media players produced by Apple.

Those are only some examples from English language.

Interestingly enough, the same process occurs in other languages too. For example, we, Russians, have the word “ксерокс”, which can be translated as “xerox” (and it became genericized back USSR times, same as it happened in all the English speaking countries). We also use the brand-name “Jeep” to generalize all sorts of 4WD cars, as well as the word “Pampers”, when we refer to baby’s diapers.

By the way, I heard that in Mongolia, people use the word “canon” for all photocopiers (same way as “xerox” is being used in English and Russian), simply because Canon was the first brand of photocopiers they had in Central Asia.

If you know any other languages, what are some of the brand names that became genericized in your country?

  1. RocknRolla says:

    Maggie stand for all the noodles in India as it was pioneer in the industry.

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