For the past three weeks through the Grammar Series, we have looked at errors in everyday language. Well, today I thought I would carry on along the same vein and mention words that are ‘brand’ names but now seem to sit comfortably in our day to day language. If you are a history person, then once again, you should enjoy this jog down memory lane.
The first example is probably the best example of this flagrant misuse of a word – Hoover. When referring to vacuum cleaners, many call all vacuum cleaners ‘hoovers’ and when vacuuming (whether with a Hoover or another make of a vacuum cleaner) they may say, ‘ I am hoovering.’ Apparently, this started as a result of Hoover being one of the biggest selling makes of vacuum cleaners. The term continued, despite a decline in sales and can be a bone of contention with other vacuum cleaner manufacturers.
The Hoover company started in America in 1908. According to Wikipedia, James Spangler invented a basic suction sweeper because he suspected the carpet sweeper he used at work to be causing his asthma. After working on the design and assembling electronic suction sweepers, he gave one to his cousin Susan Troxel Hoover to try. Being impressed she told her husband William Henry Hoover about it, and he bought the patent. For the full history see this about the Hoover Company.
Two examples from the stationary world are Tipp- Ex and Post-it notes. In real life they correction fluid and sticky notes.
According to Evelyn Vaz on Science.blurtit.com Tipp-Ex (the correction fluid) was developed in 1965, despite the company Tipp-Ex being formed in 1959 in Frankfurt.
Post-it notes history, as told by David Hiskey, can be found here and is an interesting read.
I am sure if you did your own research (if you feel inclined in that way), you would find more examples like Chapstick (lip balm), Kleenex (tissues) and Q-tip (cotton buds). If you are going to search, make sure you search and not ‘google it,’ as I am increasingly hearing. I am not saying do not use Google as a search engine, I am saying use the correct term for the action that you will be carrying out.
So why have these names now become generic terms used in everyday speech? I guess the answer in one word is popularity. Something which is popular is not always correct. I have nothing against brands, but my bugbear is just the incorrect use of words in general.
While I am on the subject. Whenever I hear people say ‘nothink’ or ‘somethink’ instead of ‘nothing’ or ‘something,’ I cringe. This is the same as using text language which can become habit-forming and impacts our everyday use. See my blog No text please we’re British.
A phrase that my mother uses all the time is ‘Practice becomes custom.’ In relation to language or any other skill you wish to develop, the saying means if you want to acquire or maintain good language skills, you have to make a point of practising every day.
I think encouraging the correct use of words in speech and anything which we write says that we care about our language and hopefully this will be passed on to the next generation.
I hope that what I have said does not come across as patronising, but I am passionate about what I do and I guess I want everyone else to feel the same way.