Brand names used for generic products.
December 2, 2009 4:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm curious about world-wide use of brand names to refer to the generic product.

It seems very common in the United States to refer to generic things by their major brands - Kleenex, Xerox, etc. The only example I know of from outside America is Hoover in the United Kingdom - what about elsewhere?
posted by backseatpilot to Grab Bag (40 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Australia: band aids, glad wrap (cling film), liquid paper.
posted by bunglin jones at 4:04 AM on December 2, 2009

It's common in France too. Some examples: Sopalin for paper towels (where the generic name is papier essuie-tout), Digicode as the code used to enter buildings (which is actually the brand name of the machine), Photomaton (photo booth), Scotch (tape), along with many of the same ones used in the States (kleenex, frisbee, etc).
posted by helios at 4:10 AM on December 2, 2009

Sellotape for tape in the UK.
posted by sandig at 4:11 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, I just found this page on Wikipedia; if you scroll down to the language sidebar on the left, you can find a list of these for at least 12 different languages/countries.
posted by helios at 4:12 AM on December 2, 2009

Pampers in Latvian. You can find a decent selection of Norwegian ones by following helios' link. Apparently a few are international, or close to: Jeep for any light 4x4 comes to mind.
posted by Harald74 at 4:18 AM on December 2, 2009

UK: tippex (noun and verb)
posted by Bodd at 4:18 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Cool question, here's some examples from Germany:
- Tempo for tissue
- Post-It for sticky notes
- Maggi for soup seasoning sauce
- UHU for glue
- Tipp-ex for correction fluid
- Fön for hairdryer
- Tesa(film) for sticky tape
- Jeep for off-road vehicle
- Plexiglas for acrylic glass
- Aspirin for pain killers
- Walkman for portable cassette player
- Zewa for kitchen paper towels
posted by starzero at 4:33 AM on December 2, 2009

You don't specify whether you care if the trademark has expired or not yet -- if it's expired it makes more sense (?) to use generically. Maybe.

So here's some of each, all of which were/are trademarks, I think:

- Heroin
- Escalator
- Thermos
- Crock-Pot
- Formica
- Jello
- Rollerblades ("in-line skates")
- Fiberglas(s)
- Trampoline
- White-Out (aka Tipp-ex)
- Any "Webster's" dictionary
- AstroTurf
- Frisbee
- Taser
- Sharpie pens
- Dictaphone
- Lego
- Coke (for any cola or even any soda)
- Pilates (famous case)
- Muzak (for "elevator music")
- Vaseline
- Oxo cubes
- Google and iPod are getting close to this territory.

Also, I hope "aspirin" is just for ASA, starzero, not for any generic painkiller. That could be confusing and dangerous.

The scary thing? I found most of these by just walking around my house for 3 mins. It's a brand, brand, brand-name world.

No, not the trampoline or heroin. It's not the weekend, duh.
posted by rokusan at 4:46 AM on December 2, 2009

Most of the ones I just dumped out were American, but they're also all over Canada and Mexico, at least, and many are UK-friendly.
posted by rokusan at 4:49 AM on December 2, 2009

In Polish, sneakers are called adidasy. I think the word for bicycle, rower, came from the name of a company, but I'm not 100% sure about that one.
posted by capsizing at 4:54 AM on December 2, 2009

I've heard lots of Filipinos refer to toothpaste as Crest, no matter what brand it is. Same with Pampers, Coke, Jeeps and more.
posted by ferdinandcc at 5:10 AM on December 2, 2009

UK ones:
Kleenex (tissues)
Hoover (vacuum cleaner)
Stanley Knife (utility knife, boxcutter, carpet knife)
Allen Key (Allen wrench, hex key)
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:12 AM on December 2, 2009

In Canada, they call macaroni and cheese "Kraft dinner", for some reason.
posted by interrobang at 5:30 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Funny I was just going to write the Kraft Dinner one. Kraft markets its macaroni & cheese product as, simply, Dinner. So we call all macaroni & cheese Kraft Dinner. Weird, eh?
posted by molecicco at 5:39 AM on December 2, 2009

Wikipedia has a list of generic and genericized trademarks that includes several non-American brands.

Some Antipodean examples:

'Duco' is an Australian word for 'automotive paint'. It was originally the name of a DuPont company product.

The brand name 'Jandals' has become the New Zealand word for the sort of rubber sandals that are called 'flip-flops' in the USA and 'thongs' in Australia.

Any portable insulated cooler is called an 'esky' in Australia and a 'chilly bin' in New Zealand. Both of these started as brand names.

Some Australian people used to use 'Meds', a brand of tampons, to refer to any kind of tampon, but I haven't heard this since I was a teenager.

'Speedo' is an interesting example of an originally Australian brand name (the company is now headquartered in England) that has become more of a generic name outside Australia than in. I've often heard Americans use 'Speedo' to mean 'man's brief swimsuit', but this usage is less common in Australia.

A non-DownUnder example: a stapler in Japan is called a 'hochikisu', and I'd always heard it was named after an American company which sold such goods to Japan in the early 20th century.
posted by eatyourcellphone at 5:49 AM on December 2, 2009

In Bolivia, I often heard blue jeans generically called "wranglers" or "pantalón wrangler" except with the "w" pronounced and the "r" silent. I don't know if this usage was just local, or more widely spread in Latin America.
posted by drlith at 6:01 AM on December 2, 2009

In the UK (at least, when I was a kid there), I often heard "hoover" used as a verb: "I need to hoover my bedroom".
posted by aqsakal at 6:05 AM on December 2, 2009

You don't specify whether you care if the trademark has expired or not yet -- if it's expired it makes more sense (?) to use generically. Maybe.

It can work the other way around. If a brand name becomes genericized, the company can lose its intellectual property rights.

From Wiki:Where a trademark is used generically, a trademark owner may need to take special proactive measures to retain exclusive rights to the trademark. Xerox corporation was able to generally prevent the genericide of its core trademark through an extensive public relations campaign advising consumers to "photocopy"[citation needed] instead of "xerox" documents.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:11 AM on December 2, 2009

In Iran, you can hear the following (in Persian/Farsi):

- Kleenex --> instead of 'tissue',
- Xerox (verb) --> instead of 'photocopy',
- Tide --> instead of 'Laundry powder',
- Whitex --> instead of 'bleach'.
posted by soroush at 6:22 AM on December 2, 2009

My Russian girlfriend calls all blue jeans "levis", even when I tease her for being a stereotype.
posted by rokusan at 6:28 AM on December 2, 2009

In India:
Xerox for photocopying
Sellotape for tape
Frisbee for um, flying discs?
Maggi for ramen-type noodles
Crocin for paracetamol
Tupperware for pretty much any plastic food carrying container
posted by peacheater at 6:39 AM on December 2, 2009

A couple American ones from an older generation: my 84 year old mother calls all jeans Levis, and all sneakers Keds.
posted by chez shoes at 6:40 AM on December 2, 2009

Tupperware for pretty much any plastic food carrying container

And I am starting to hear and use Gladware for any brand of quasi-disposable Tupperware. (US)

[I actually woke up in the middle of the night thinking about this, specifically about "bandaids". So weird to see this thread when I got up.]
posted by Lyn Never at 7:12 AM on December 2, 2009

tippex is the only one coming to mind right this second.
posted by Stewriffic at 7:17 AM on December 2, 2009

In Canada, they call macaroni and cheese "Kraft dinner", for some reason.

That's the name Kraft puts on the box in Canada.

In our transborder household, it makes a useful distinction: Kraft Dinner = that stuff from a box made with powder; mac 'n' cheese = stuff not from a box made by making a cheese sauce from scratch.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:31 AM on December 2, 2009

Q-Tip instead of the generic "cotton swab."
posted by bengarland at 7:32 AM on December 2, 2009

French Canadians call refrigerators "Frigidaires" almost exclusively - even shortening it to "frigo" as slang.

My wife, who is from the American South, tells me that in Georgia all soda pop is "Coke," but that's not common in the northern or southwestern states.
posted by Shepherd at 7:44 AM on December 2, 2009

My wife, who is from the American South, tells me that in Georgia all soda pop is "Coke," but that's not common in the northern or southwestern states.

This is true, at least for some people in Georgia. I have witnessed the following conversation, none of which was meant to be ironic or humorous:

'What kind of Coke do you want?'
posted by shakespeherian at 8:13 AM on December 2, 2009

Here in the UK:

Box cutters are called Stanley knives.
Bagless vacuums are referred to generically as Dysons.
Hose clamps are called Jubilee clips.
Flashing lights at pedestrian crosswalks are called Belisha beacons.

Brits seem to prefer calling manufactured objects by their creators' names rather than using brand names generically (they don't understand, or pretend not to understand, what Saran Wrap, Q-Tips, Jell-O and Band-Aids are: that's clingfilm, cotton buds, jelly and plasters to you).
posted by stuck on an island at 8:19 AM on December 2, 2009

In Canada, they call macaroni and cheese "Kraft dinner", for some reason.

I don't think this quite fits -- because only Kraft Dinner is Kraft Dinner. If you buy the generic, or you make it yourself using actual cheese, it's not KD anymore, at least not in common usage.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:25 AM on December 2, 2009

Walkman for portable cassette player

That's a "Freestyle" in Sweden.

(supposedly because the local Sony sales office didn't think that Walkman was a good name, and they weren't the only ones that thought that: "plans were made to call it Soundabout in the United States, Stowaway in the United Kingdom and Freestyle in Sweden".)

Other common examples from Sweden, off the top of my head, are "termos" (vacuum flask), "mack" (gas station, after an early pump manufacturer), "jeep" (rugged 4WD:s), "vespa" (scooters), "O'Boy" (hot chocolate, after local brand), "tetra" (tetra pak containers), "keso" (cottage cheese). There are many others; especially food, building materials, and medications seems to become genericized as often as not.
posted by effbot at 8:32 AM on December 2, 2009

Nescafe has become the generic term for instant coffee in a lot of countries.
posted by holgate at 8:42 AM on December 2, 2009

seconding "nescafe" for instant coffee, "termo" (thermos) for insulated vacuum bottle, and "tetra" for those boxes that contain juice or, locally, tremendously shitty wine.
"savora" - local brand of mustard
"bondi" - slang for a bus, from the now extinct "Bom Dia" line of buses imported from Brazil
"carilina" - equivalent to "kleenex," a local brand of tissues
"tupper" - tupperware
posted by dr. boludo at 11:11 AM on December 2, 2009

Ugg boots. An Australian generic name later trademarked by a US corporation, who then pursued legal action against Australian companies using the term.

There's an interesting documentary about the trademark battle, but I don't think it's available online.
posted by ocha-no-mizu at 11:12 AM on December 2, 2009

Another Oz usage: Texta.
posted by zamboni at 12:24 PM on December 2, 2009

In Mexico:

Kotex - sanitary pads
Tóper, from Tupperware - plastic containers
Sopa maruchan - ramen soup in a cup
Suavitel - fabric softener
Maggi - seasoning sauce
Knorr - powdered chicken bullion
Curitas - band-aids
Fabuloso or Pinol - all purpose household cleaner
Chocolate Abuelita - Chocolate tablets
Diurex - Sticky tape (cellophane tape)
Unicel - Styrofoam
Queso Filadelfia - Cream cheese

Some are similar to the ones used in Argentina:
Termo, from Thermos
Micro or Microbus, from the VW Microbus
posted by clearlydemon at 1:45 PM on December 2, 2009

More Australian examples:

Biro (a ballpoint pen)
Liquid Paper (correction fluid)
Thermos (vaccuum flask)
Philidelphia or Philly cheese (cream cheese)
Scungees (weird lycra knickers worn under a netball skirt and over your actual knickers)

Where I grew up, elastic-sided boots were universally referred to as Blunnies (short for the brand name Blundstone), whatever brand they were, but I don't know if that's widespread.
posted by girlgenius at 2:16 PM on December 2, 2009

A French example that comes to mind is not-yet-President-of-France Sarkozy suggesting that the minority suburbs of Paris be cleaned out using a Kärcher -- a worldwide brand of pressure washer. (The company wasn't too pleased.)

The process is called metonymy, and is irrespective of language or culture, so far as I know. (Shaka, and the walls fell.)
posted by dhartung at 5:33 PM on December 2, 2009

Another Australian one: a duvet is almost universally referred to as a 'doona'.
posted by goo at 3:09 AM on December 6, 2009

And, I should add (must've been sleep posting previously), the ubiquity of the term 'doona' for duvet in Australia is the direct result of a prolonged Ikea marketing campaign through the 60s and 70s. The spread of the name would be a fascinating study into the genericisation of a trademark/ brand name.
posted by goo at 6:09 PM on December 23, 2009

« Older An Australian iPhone in the US of A   |   Looking for books on building military castles (ca... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.