In one of my first posts titled Evolving Language, we saw that with over 600,000 words, English contains more words than any language in human history. That posts explored how the English language acquires new words. This post adds another dimension; it is another piece to the puzzle we call the English language. In the same way certain slang words become accepted as standard English – through the phenomenon of popular usage, Genercide is another key to language evolution.
As you know, a brand is a name used to identify a product, such as Coke for a caramel-colored, carbonated soda. Genercide or proprietary eponyms is the process of when, through popular usage, a brand name (in the form of an adjective) becomes a generic name (in the form of a noun) for a product category. For example: “Hand me the Kleenex (Capitalized adjective) tissue,” has become “Hand me the kleenex (lowercased common noun).”
Over time many brand names have completely lost their status as brand names and have instead become synonymous with the category in which they reside. Some examples of this are: zipper, aspirin, granola, and yo-yo. These terms were each brand names at one time, but now they are common nouns. ” . . . bereft of monetary value — victims of ‘genericide.’ According to Naming.com, “Usage demoted them to the humble rank of “generic descriptor.” –
Some proprietary eponyms are given below.
Defunct Trademarks Used Generically
Pogo Stick (Pogo)
Active Trademarks Often Used Generically
Chapstick (Chap Stick)
Coke (Coca Cola)
Cola (Coca Cola)
Ping Pong (replacing the generic term “Table Tennis”)
The power of popular usage is phenomenal. For better or worse, we shape our language. By some estimates the English language will acquire it’s one millionth word by April 2009. Can you think of any more proprietary eponyms. Can you predict any future vicitms of genericide?