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41 Brand Names People Use as Generic Terms

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Corbis

Many items we use every day, like zippers and escalators, were once brand names. Even heroin, which no one should use any day, was a brand name. These names are or were trademarked, but are now often used to describe any brand in a product category.

1. Jet Ski

You might think you’re riding around on a Jet Ski, but if it’s not made by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, it’s just a personal watercraft.

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2. Bubble Wrap

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Bubble Wrap is probably the greatest contribution made to our society by Sealed Air Corporation, which they rightly trademarked.

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3. Onesies

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The term Onesies, referring to infant bodysuits, is owned by Gerber Childrenswear. According to their website, the trademark is aggressively enforced. (Twosies and Funzies also belong to Gerber.)

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4. Jacuzzi

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Jacuzzi is not only a brand of hot tubs and bathtubs; they also make mattresses and toilets.

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5. Crock-Pot

Crock-Pot.com

The Crock-Pot, a brand name for the slow cooker, was originally developed as a beanery appliance.

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6. Fluffernutter

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Fluffernutter is a registered trademark of the makers of Marshmallow Fluff, Durkee-Mower, Inc.

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7. Seeing Eye Dog

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Technically it's only a Seeing Eye Dog if it's trained by Seeing Eye of Morristown New Jersey. Otherwise it's a guide dog. (We're as guilty of this as anyone.)

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8. Breathalyzer

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Breathalyzer is owned by the Indiana University Foundation. In 1931 Indiana University professor Rolla N. Harger created the contraption—originally called the Drunk-O-Meter—as a device to test the sobriety of drivers. Suspected tipplers breathed into a special balloon, and Harger's device got a reading on how much they'd had to drink. By 1936 Harger had patented his creation, and he eventually signed the invention over to Indiana University.

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9. Zamboni

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The Zamboni is an ice resurfacer named after its inventor, Frank Zamboni.

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10. Chapstick 

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Chapstick is a brand name of lip balm produced by Pfizer. In the event that you find yourself enjoying this product too much, websites dedicated to helping Chapstick addicts are available.

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11. Kleenex

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The perfect time to remind a friend or family member that Kleenex is a brand name for a tissue is right when they are desperately begging you to hand them one.

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12. Ping-Pong 

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Ping Pong was trademarked in 1901 as a brand of table tennis products named for the sound the ball makes when it hits the table.

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13. Popsicle 

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Popsicle is a registered trademark of Unilever. Like many great things in life, the Popsicle was invented by accident. As the story goes, one winter night in 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson left a mixture of soda and water with a stick in it on his porch. Almost 20 years later, Frank began selling his creation at a lemonade stand and the treat has been popular ever since.

Today, Unilever recommends that you call generic frozen pops on a stick “pops,” “ice pops” or “freezer pops.” Although, depending on where you’re from, offering someone a “pop” could get very confusing.

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14. Q-Tips

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When Q-tips were originally released, they were called Baby Gays. The name was changed to Q-tips—the “Q” standing for quality—in 1926. Although they have changed hands several times since then, Unilever owns the brand today.

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15. Rollerblades

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Two hockey player brothers designed Rollerblade inline skates from a pair of old roller skates in 1979. They were the only brand of inline skates until the mid-eighties, when several other companies emerged.

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16. Scotch Tape

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According to legend, Scotch tape earned its name when a frustrated customer told a 3M scientist to “take it back to your Scotch bosses and tell them to put more adhesive on it.” Today, Scotch "Magic Tape" is only manufactured in one place in the world: Hutchinson, Minn.

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17. Sharpie

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The permanent marker was invented in 1956, but the Sharpie wasn’t introduced until 1964. Today, the products are almost synonymous with one another.

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18. Realtor

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Realtor was a trademark designed specifically to separate its users from most other real estate agents. To use the word Realtor, you need to follow a strict code of ethics and be a member of the National Association of Realtors.

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19. Tupperware

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Tupperware is a brand that got its name from its creator, Earle Silas Tupper.

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20. Velcro

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George de Mastreal invented Velcro when he discovered that burrs stuck to matted dog fur. Today, it is the world’s most prominent brand of hook and loop fasteners.

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21. Weed Eater

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Weed Eater is owned by Husqvarna Outdoor Products.

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22. Wite-Out

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Don’t ask BIC what’s in their line of correction fluid. The exact ingredients of Wite-out are confidential.

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23. Band-Aids

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Johnson & Johnson manufactured gauze and adhesive tape separately until Earle Dickson had the idea to combine them to create Band-Aids for his accident-prone wife.

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24. TASER 

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Taser is a trademark of TASER International, and shouldn’t technically be used as a verb. To be fair, “Don’t hit me with that electroshock weapon, bro!” is probably hard to shout under duress. Bonus fact: TASER is an acronym. It stands for "Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle."

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25. X-acto Knife

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X-acto began in 1917 as a medical company that created syringes. Eventually, they began creating surgical scalpels that evolved into hobby knives. X-acto is a brand and a division of Elmer’s.

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26. Dumpster

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Dumpster is a brand name, which is true, although the word has become largely genericized and the trademark is not widely enforced. The APA has even dropped the recommendation to capitalize the word. The Dumpster got its name from the Dempster Brothers Inc., who combined their name with the word “dump” to create the Dempster Dumpster.

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27. Novocain

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Novacain is actually the brand name of Procaine Hydrochloride owned by Hospira Inc.

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28. Xerox

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Xerox has been trying to stop people from calling photocopying "xeroxing" for years. "Use Xerox only as an adjective to identify our products and services," said a 2010 print ad, "not a verb, 'to Xerox,' or a noun, 'Xeroxes.' Something to keep in mind that will help us keep it together."

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29. Post-Its

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Everyone knows Post-its, a trademark of 3M, were not the invention of Romy and Michele. A very different duo is responsible—Dr. Spencer Silver invented the adhesive in 1968 and scientist Art Fry thought up a practical use for it in 1974. A few years later, Post-its were available for sale (first under the name Press ‘N Peel).

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30. Ouija Board

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The Ouija Board was first introduced by Elijah Bond in 1890 as a practical way to communicate with spirits, making dealing with a pesky ghost much more convenient. Today, it is trademark of Hasbro Inc.

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31. Plexiglas

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Plexiglas, which got its start in World War II aircraft canopies, has since become the better-known name for acrylic glass or polymethyl methacrylate.

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32. Styrofoam

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No matter how many picnics you’ve been to or how much time you spend at the water cooler, you’ve never had a drink out of a true Styrofoam cup. Expanded polystyrene is the generic name for the material that we typically think of as Styrofoam. The brand is a trademark of the Dow Chemical Company that is made in sheaths for construction projects and is never made in the shape of a plate, cup or cooler.

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33. Formica 

Thinkstock

If not made by the Diller Corporation, you should call it a decorative laminate. Catchy.

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34, 35 & 36. Frisbee, Hula Hoop & Slip'n Slide

Wikimedia Commons

Frisbee is currently owned by WHAM-O. In 2010, Manley Toys Ltd. challenged WHAM-O, arguing that the terms Frisbee, Hula Hoop and Slip’n Slide have already become generic in the public lexicon, but it didn't really go anywhere.

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37. Windbreaker 

Wikimedia Commons

Windbreaker is a trademarked word for jackets made by Celebration Trading Inc., though this is currently in court.

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38. Stetson

Wikimedia Commons

Stetsons are hats made by the John B. Stetson Company. They are not a generic term for cowboy hats. And if you use it that way, Stetson will send you a very terse letter, as the Washington Post found out.

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39. PowerPoint

Thinkstock

On their website, Microsoft suggests that unless you are using their software, your PowerPoint is a “presentation and graphics program.”

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40. GED

The GED is certainly the most famous of the high school equivalency diplomas, but this one is trademarked by the American Council on Education.

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41. Google

Getty Images

Bing it.

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5 Things You Didn't Know About Sally Ride
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U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

You know Sally Ride as the first American woman to travel into space. But here are five things you might not know about the astronaut, who passed away five years ago today—on July 23, 2012—at the age of 61.

1. SHE PROVED THERE IS SUCH THING AS A STUPID QUESTION.

When Sally Ride made her first space flight in 1983, she was both the first American woman and the youngest American to make the journey to the final frontier. Both of those distinctions show just how qualified and devoted Ride was to her career, but they also opened her up to a slew of absurd questions from the media.

Journalist Michael Ryan recounted some of the sillier questions that had been posed to Ride in a June 1983 profile for People. Among the highlights:

Q: “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?”
A: “There’s no evidence of that.”

Q: “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?”
A: “How come nobody ever asks (a male fellow astronaut) those questions?"

Forget going into space; Ride’s most impressive achievement might have been maintaining her composure in the face of such offensive questions.

2. SHE MIGHT HAVE BEEN A TENNIS PRO.

When Ride was growing up near Los Angeles, she played more than a little tennis, and she was seriously good at it. She was a nationally ranked juniors player, and by the time she turned 18 in 1969, she was ranked 18th in the whole country. Tennis legend Billie Jean King personally encouraged Ride to turn pro, but she went to Swarthmore instead before eventually transferring to Stanford to finish her undergrad work, a master’s, and a PhD in physics.

King didn’t forget about the young tennis prodigy she had encouraged, though. In 1984 an interviewer playfully asked the tennis star who she’d take to the moon with her, to which King replied, “Tom Selleck, my family, and Sally Ride to get us all back.”

3. HOME ECONOMICS WAS NOT HER BEST SUBJECT.

After retiring from space flight, Ride became a vocal advocate for math and science education, particularly for girls. In 2001 she founded Sally Ride Science, a San Diego-based company that creates fun and interesting opportunities for elementary and middle school students to learn about math and science.

Though Ride was an iconic female scientist who earned her doctorate in physics, just like so many other youngsters, she did hit some academic road bumps when she was growing up. In a 2006 interview with USA Today, Ride revealed her weakest subject in school: a seventh-grade home economics class that all girls had to take. As Ride put it, "Can you imagine having to cook and eat tuna casserole at 8 a.m.?"

4. SHE HAD A STRONG TIE TO THE CHALLENGER.

Ride’s two space flights were aboard the doomed shuttle Challenger, and she was eight months deep into her training program for a third flight aboard the shuttle when it tragically exploded in 1986. Ride learned of that disaster at the worst possible time: she was on a plane when the pilot announced the news.

Ride later told AARP the Magazine that when she heard the midflight announcement, she got out her NASA badge and went to the cockpit so she could listen to radio reports about the fallen shuttle. The disaster meant that Ride wouldn’t make it back into space, but the personal toll was tough to swallow, too. Four of the lost members of Challenger’s crew had been in Ride’s astronaut training class.

5. SHE DIDN'T SELL OUT.

A 2003 profile in The New York Times called Ride one of the most famous women on Earth after her two space flights, and it was hard to argue with that statement. Ride could easily have cashed in on the slew of endorsements, movie deals, and ghostwritten book offers that came her way, but she passed on most opportunities to turn a quick buck.

Ride later made a few forays into publishing and endorsements, though. She wrote or co-wrote more than a half-dozen children’s books on scientific themes, including To Space and Back, and in 2009 she appeared in a print ad for Louis Vuitton. Even appearing in an ad wasn’t an effort to pad her bank account, though; the ad featured an Annie Leibovitz photo of Ride with fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell gazing at the moon and stars. According to a spokesperson, all three astronauts donated a “significant portion” of their modeling fees to Al Gore’s Climate Project.

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5 Surprising Facts About the Battle of Dunkirk
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With the release of Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed Dunkirk, the world’s attention is once again focused on the historic events recounted in the film, when a makeshift fleet of British fishing boats, pleasure yachts, and cargo ships helped save 185,000 British soldiers and 130,000 French soldiers from death or capture by German invaders during the Fall of France in May and June 1940. Here are five surprising facts about those heroic days.

1. THE GERMAN ATTACK WAS SUPPOSED TO BE IMPOSSIBLE.

By Weper Hermann, 13 German Mobile Assault Unit - Imperial War Museums, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The main reason France collapsed so quickly in 1940 was the element of surprise enjoyed by its German attackers, thanks to General Erich von Manstein, who proposed an invasion route that was widely believed to be impossible. In Manstein’s plan, the main German column of tanks and motorized infantry would force their way through the forests of Ardennes in southeast Belgium and Luxembourg—a thick, hilly woodland which was supposed to be difficult terrain for tanks, requiring at least five days to cross, according to conventional wisdom based on the experience of the First World War. The French and British assumed that little had changed since the previous conflict, but thanks to field studies and updated maps, Manstein and his colleague General Heinz Guderian realized that a new network of narrow, paved roads would allow just enough room for tanks and trucks to squeeze through. As a result the Germans passed through Ardennes into northern France in just two-and-a-half days, threatening to cut off hundreds of thousands of Allied troops, with only one escape route: the sea.

2. ONE FRENCH WORD WAS BURNED INTO WINSTON CHURCHILL’S MEMORY: “AUCUNE.”

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The German invasion of France began on May 10, 1940, the same day Winston Churchill became Prime Minister. By May 14, when he paid his first official visit to Britain’s ally, Holland had capitulated and Paris was preparing for evacuation. But an even worse surprise was in store. In one of the most famous passages of military history, Churchill recounted the moment he learned that the French didn’t have any troops in reserve:

"I then asked ‘Where is the strategic reserve?’ and, breaking into French … ‘Ou est la mass de manoeuvre?’ General Gamelin turned to me and, with a shake of the head and a shrug, replied. ‘Aucune.’ [There is none] … I was dumbfounded. What were we to think of the Great French Army and its highest chief? It had never occurred to me than any commanders … would have left themselves unprovided with a mass of manoeuvre … This was one of the greatest surprises I have had in my life.”

3. HITLER MADE A FATAL MISTAKE.

On May 24, 1940, the Allied troops on the French and Belgian coast had been totally surrounded by powerful German tank columns, rendering them essentially defenseless against the impending German onslaught. And then came a brief reprieve, as the attackers suddenly stopped for 48 hours, allowing the British to dig in and create a defensive perimeter, setting the stage for the evacuation.

For reasons that still aren’t clear, Hitler—over the protests of his own generals and to the bafflement of historians—had ordered Guderian to halt for two days to rest and resupply. It’s true the German troops were worn out after two weeks of fighting, and Hitler may have worried about a repeat of 1914, when exhausted German troops were forced to withdraw at the Marne. He may also have been swayed by Hermann Göring, chief of the German Luftwaffe, who boasted that air power alone could destroy the helpless Allied forces at Dunkirk. Less likely is the speculation that Hitler purposefully “let the Allies go” to appear magnanimous or merciful as a prelude to peace negotiations (which was not really in keeping with his character). In the end we will probably never know why Hitler choked.

4. GERMAN DIVE-BOMBERS WERE EQUIPPED WITH SIRENS TO SPREAD TERROR.

Among many examples of Germany’s evil genius for psychological warfare, one of the most famous was the decision to equip its Ju 87 dive bombers with air-powered sirens that emitted a shrieking, unearthly wail as the plane went into attack. The siren, known as the “Jericho Trumpet,” was intended to spread terror among enemy troops and civilians on the ground—and it worked. To this day the Jericho Trumpet is one of the most recognizable, and terrifying, sounds of war. It was certainly one of the lasting impressions of the Dunkirk evacuation for ordinary troops caught beneath the German bombs. Lieutenant Elliman, a British gunner who was waiting to be evacuated on Malo-les-Bains beach, later recalled the Stukas “diving, zooming, screeching, and wheeling over our heads like a flock of huge infernal seagulls.”

5. THE FRENCH FOUGHT A HOPELESS BATTLE TO COVER THE EVACUATION.

By Saidman (Mr), War Office official photographer — Photograph H 1636 from the Imperial War Museums, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Although Churchill and other Brits were quick to criticize the failure of France’s generals during the Fall of France, many ordinary French soldiers and officers fought bravely and honorably—and one hopeless “last stand” in particular probably helped enable the successful evacuation of Dunkirk.

As British and French troops withdrew to Dunkirk, 40 miles to the southeast French troops in two corps of the French First Army staged a ferocious defense against seven German divisions from May 28 to May 31, 1940, refusing to surrender and mounting several attempts to break out despite being heavily outnumbered (110,000 to 40,000). The valiant French effort, led by General Jean-Baptiste Molinié, helped tie up three German tank divisions under Erwin Rommel, enabling the British Expeditionary Force and the remaining troops of the French First Army to retreat and dig in at Dunkirk, ultimately saving another 100,000 Allied troops.

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