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					WHAT’S UP WITH GENERIC BRAND NAMES

As a child, jello was my favorite dessert. It sparkled, it wiggled, it was cold, and, loaded with
sugar, it tasted great. But it turns out I wasn’t eating jello at all. I was eating a naturally
sweetened, artificially fruit flavored, gelatin dessert treat. I wonder what, exactly, artificial fruit
flavoring is. I’m sure it isn’t extracted from artificial fruit (artificial fruit tastes really terrible, never
mind how I know). Anyway “Jello” is not a product: it’s a brand. Mom never bought “Jello”
because it was too expensive. It didn’t matter, gelatin dessert treat was fine with me
(remember the sugar). Nowadays my wife doesn’t buy “Jello” either. She also doesn’t buy
naturally sweetened, artificially fruit-flavored, gelatin dessert treats (remember the sugar).

Do you think you’ve been buying kleenex all these years. Unless you’ve been buying
“Kleenex,” you’ve just been purchasing two-ply (possible lotion infused) facial tissue. Have you
been carefully cleansing your wounds and covering them with what you though were a “Band-
Aids”? More likely, the dressings were just sterilized, breathable, single-use, adhesive pads
with non-stick absorbent centers. Your trusty old hoover may, in fact be a “Hoover,” but more
likely it’s just a vacuum cleaner, maybe a “Dyson” vacuum cleaner, which, I understand, really
sucks (but in a good way). Over the years I know you’ve used scotch tape to wrap Christmas
presents, or possibly magic tape. The transparent plastic, single-side, adhesive tape you used
might well have been “Scotch Tape,” or possibly even “Magic Tape” (frosty on the roll, clear on
the job).

Do your kids play with small, multi-colored, modular, interlocking building blocks? They might
actually be playing with “Lego” (not “Legos,” by the way, you can look it up). Perhaps they
once owned a personal portable cassette tape player, most likely a “Walkman.” Perhaps it has
been replaced with a personal portable digital music player, most likely an “iPod.” If they are
athletic, they may have a pair of neoprene wheeled, in-line skates, possibly “Rollerblades.” If
they are really athletic and coordinated, they may even own a skateboard, possibly a
skateboard (okay, not a generic brand name).

At one time or another we have all had a “Coke,” or some other caramel colored, cola bean
flavored, carbonated soft drink. We’ve had “Ruffles,” corrugation sliced, deep fried potato
chips; or “Twinkies,” chocolate covered, sugar cream infused, individual sized roll cakes. If we
live in Hawaii (and possibly a few other places), we regularly have “Spam,” a canned, pre-
cooked, pork shoulder and ham meat product. Kids everywhere, including a few of us older
kids, love “Popsicles,” naturally (or unnaturally) sweetened, artificially fruit-flavored, frozen
juice treats; and everybody’s just got to love “Ben & Jerry’s,” a delicious, naturally sweetened
with real sugar (remember the sugar), comes in dozens of exotic flavors, made only with all
natural ingredients, creamy and delicious ice cream. Okay, it’s not a generic brand name, but it
should be.

And then there’s aspirin, cellophane, dry ice, email, kerosene, laundromat, thermos, videotape,
yo-yo, and zipper, just a few examples of what were once brand names, now officially generic
names, adopted into the lexicon of modern language. I often find myself wondering: Are there
more? How many more? What was the very first brand name to go generic? Do other
languages exhibit this same phenomenon? Does anyone really care about all this? Do I really
care about this? Not really!

What’s up with that?

11/12/10