50 Words You Might Not Know Are Trademarked

Many of the items we use every day, like zippers and escalators, were once brand names. Here are some trademarked names that are often used as generic terms today.

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.

2. Bubble Wrap

Sheet of Bubble Wrap
iStock

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

3. Onesies

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.) If you're selling your own, you're gonna want to call them bodysuits.

4. Crockpot

Stew in a slow cooker
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The Crockpot, a brand name for the slow cooker, was originally developed as a beanery appliance.

5. Jacuzzi

Jacuzzi is not only a brand of hot tubs and bathtubs; they also make mattresses and toilets, which means you can sleep on a Jacuzzi that's oddly not a water bed.

6. Fluffernutter

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

7, 8, and 9. Frisbee, Hula Hoop, and Slip 'n Sliide

Frisbee is currently owned by WHAM-O, but there have been ongoing legal battles to make this word and several others generic. 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. As recently as 2018, WHAM-O was regularly keeping an eye on counterfeiters who violated their trademark.

10. Chapstick

A woman applies lip balm
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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.

11. Kleenex

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.

12. Ping-Pong

Close up of table tennis paddles and ball on a table near the net
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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.

13. Powerpoint

Unless you're using the Microsoft program, you're using a presentation graphics program or a pitch deck program.

14. Q-Tips

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.

15. Rollerblade

Two sets people's legs, wearing knee pads and roller blades
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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-1980s, when several other companies emerged.

16. Scotch Tape

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.”

17. Sharpie Marker

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

18. JELL-O

A cup of JELL-O with whipped cream
Robbie Gorr/iStock via Getty Images

In 1899, Pearle Wait sold his recipe for Jell-O to Orator Woodward for $450. In 1902, sales for the product were around $250,000. Today, the gelatin dessert is owned by Kraft.

19. Tupperware

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

20. Velcro

Blue velcro strip
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George de Mastral 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.

21. Weed Eater

Weed Eater is owned by Husqvarna Outdoor Products, so you're probably using a string trimmer (or a whipper-snipper if you're feeling frisky).

22. Wite-out

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

23. Band-Aids

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

24. Novocain

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

25. TASER

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."

26. Zamboni

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

27. Dumpster

The word has become largely generalized and the trademark is not widely enforced. The Dumpster got its name from the Dempster Brothers Inc., who combined their name with the word “dump” to create the Dempster Dumpster.

28. Popsicle

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 he was running 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.

29. Post-Its

Everyone knows Post-its, a trademark of 3M (no, they were not the invention of Romy and Michele). In fact, 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. In 1980, Post-its were available for sale.

30. Ouija Board

A close-up image of a Ouija Board game
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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 a trademark of Hasbro Inc.

31. Plexiglas

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

32. Styrofoam

A pile of foam cups
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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 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, which produces the material in sheaths for construction projects and is never made in the shape of a plate, cup, or cooler.

33. Thermos

Although the Thermos was invented in 1892, it wasn’t paired with a lunch box until 1953. The set, which originally featured a picture of Roy Rogers, sold more than 2 million units in the first year.

34. Vaseline

Robert Chesebrough invented Vaseline, now a registered trademark of Unilever, when he observed oil workers smearing residue from drills on their skin to heal wounds. He was just 22 at the time. Twenty years later, in 1880, Vaseline was selling throughout the United States at the rate of one jar per minute.

35. Adrenalin

A girl in a helmet driving a go-kart
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This tale of two Adrenalin(e)s will really get your blood pumping: According to Merriam-Webster, in the 1800s, there were several scientists working with a hormone made in the adrenal glands, what we now call adrenaline. Pharmacologist Henry Dale wanted to call it adrenaline, but an American company that had already trademarked Adrenalin protested due to the similarity. Dale prevailed, and today we can just adrenaline without worry. Adrenalin, minus the “e,” is still protected for pharmacology use.

35. X-acto

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

37. Sheetrock

If you want to use the word drywall, go for it. But Sheetrock is a drywall brand name owned by the United States Gypsum Company.

38. Memory Stick

A memory stick
Veronika Zimina/Stock vai Getty IImages

The commonly used word to describe a type of flash drive used to store large amounts of data is protected by Sony, which launched the technology in 1998.

39. Lava Lamp

The lamp with the amorphous goo (mostly paraffin wax) inside was originally called the “Astro” lamp, but in 1965, he sold the U.S. manufacturing rights to a company called Lava Lite. The Lava brand is still trademarked today.

40. Realtor

A man holding a set of keys and papers
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The word Realtor is trademarked by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). If the person selling your home isn’t licensed by NAR, he or she is a real estate agent, not a realtor.

41. Auto-Tune

Altering voices in post-production is almost a given these days, but not all of it is considered true Auto-Tune. A trademark of Antares Audio Technologies, Auto-Tune uses a proprietary method of pitch correction to improve or change vocal performances.

42. Astro Turf

“AstroTurf” is commonly used to refer to any type of artificial grass, but the AstroTurf brand would prefer that you didn’t, especially since they invented synthetic turf.

43. Seeing Eye Dog

A yellow Labrador Retriever assistance dog
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The Seeing Eye is the oldest guide dog school in the world, and only dogs who have gone through the training program in Morristown, New Jersey, can truly be called Seeing Eye dogs. Other dogs trained to help visually impaired people should be referred to as guide dogs.

44. Comic-Con

In 2017, Comic-Con International, which holds the annual San Diego fan convention, won a nasty legal battle against the Salt Lake Comic Con (now the FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention) over the rights to the phrase Comic-Con.

45. Mace

If the self-defense weapon you’re carrying isn’t made by Mace Security International, you’re not actually using Mace—you’re using plain old pepper spray.

46. Formica

The Formica Corporation has been fighting hard to keep their trademark since the 1970s—and so far, they’re winning. Invented at Westinghouse in 1912, the product was originally a substitute for the mineral mica, which was used in insulation—hence, “for mica.”

47. Hacky Sack

A pile of colorful hackey sacks
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The patent and trademark for the term “Hacky Sack” goes back to 1979. Five years later, the brand was acquired by Wham-O, which still holds the rights today. The preferred non-branded term? Footbag.

48. Muzak

The Muzak Company was founded by U.S. Army Major General George Squier and had more offerings than just soothing instrumentals. But as that part of the catalog became popular, people began referring to the songs themselves as Muzak.

49. Freon

While we may use Freon to refer to the refrigerant that goes in some air conditioning units and cars, that particular word is a registered trademark belonging to DuPont. The generic term is a bit of a mouthful: fluorinated hydrocarbon refrigerant.

50. Fiberglass

Owens-Corning has not only trademarked the words Fiberglass and Fiberglas, but also the distinct color (yes, you can trademark colors!) of the product: PINK.

'Turdsworth': Lord Byron’s Not-So-Affectionate Nickname for William Wordsworth

GeorgiosArt/iStock via Getty Images
GeorgiosArt/iStock via Getty Images

For those of you who thought William Wordsworth was a not-so-subtle pseudonym meant to further the literary brand of a certain 19th-century poet, think again: William Wordsworth’s real name was actually William Wordsworth.

The fitting, alliterative moniker makes it hard to forget that Wordsworth was a wordsmith, but it also made him an easy target for mockery at the hands of other Romantic era writers.

Some of it was the type of clever wordplay you might expect from England’s elite poets. In an essay for the London Review of Books, Michael Wood highlights the time that Samuel Taylor Coleridge sent his poem “The Nightingale” to Wordsworth, writing, “And like an honest bard, dear Wordsworth/You’ll tell me what you think, my Bird’s worth.”

While Coleridge’s witty rhyme poked fun at Wordsworth in a playful way, not all of his contemporaries were quite so kind. As Literary Hub points out, Lord Byron referred to Wordsworth as “Turdsworth.”

Byron’s jab sounds like something you’d hear at an elementary-school kickball game, but, then again, the eccentric poet was never one to adhere to anybody’s expectations—during college, for example, he often walked his pet bear around the grounds.

As for the word turd itself, it’s been around much longer than you might have realized. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it derives from the Old English word tord, meaning “piece of excrement,” and it’s been used as a personal insult ever since the 15th century.

If fecal-themed nicknames aren’t really your thing, here are 42 other Old English insults that you can fling with abandon.

[h/t Literary Hub]

14 Colonial-Era Slang Terms to Work Into Modern Conversation

The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images
The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

When you think of Colonial America, soldiers marching to fife and drum and Benjamin Franklin flying a kite are probably what come to mind. But the Colonial Period—which stretched from roughly 1607 to 1776, starting when America was just a group of colonies on the east side of the continent and ending with the Revolutionary War and the signing of the Declaration of Independence—was a fascinating but complicated time in which settlers from England forged a proud new identity. These new settlers brought the English language with them when they came, and whenever English finds a new home, it often takes on a new life. America was no exception. Here are 15 slang words that were recorded in and around this period of American history.

1. Kedge

What It Meant: Doing well

In you lived in a country town in Colonial-era New England and someone asked how you were doing, you might have replied, “I’m pretty kedge.” It’s a bizarre but wonderful term that essentially means in being in good health—but it also kind of sounds like something a teen in an ‘80s movie would say.

2. Cat's-paw, or to be made a cat's-paw out of

What It Meant: To be a dupe, to be used as a tool.

This colorful expression came from a fable, The Monkey and the Cat, where a monkey persuades a cat to pull chestnuts out of a fire, promising the cat its share. Spoiler alert: The cat doesn't get any. So to be used for someone else's gain is to be made a "cat's paw out of."

3. Chuffy

What It Meant: Surly or impolite

If someone is short with you, tell them they don’t have to be so chuffy. It’s a strange, old word with obscure origins, and one that sounds a bit softer than “jerk.”

4. Scranch

What It Meant: To crack something between your teeth

Though this apparently “vulgar” term sounds like it was named after what it sounds like to crack something with your teeth, it supposedly comes from the Dutch word, schransen.

5. Gut-foundered

What It Meant: Very Hungry

This word, which dates to 1647, is believed to be regional Newfoundland slang. Gut-foundered could easily become a new hyperbole for us pampered moderns to employ, like “starving.”

6. Fishy

What It Meant: Drunk

Possibly no one invented more ways to say “drunk” than colonial Americans. Benjamin Franklin alone compiled 200 ways to say it. Fishy was meant to also imply the way the drinker looked: “Bleary eyes and turned-down mouth corners make a drunk resemble a fish,” writes Richard M. Lederer, Jr. at American Heritage.

7. Macaroni

What It Meant: Fancy

When Yankee Doodle called that feather hat “macaroni,” he wasn’t being a weirdo. Macaroni was a term used at the time to refer to a particular men’s fashion from England that was intentionally flashy, over-the-top, and androgynous.

8. Twistical

What It Meant: Unfair or immoral

This word—which according to 1848’s Dictionary of Americanisms was primarily used in New England—feels like it could just as easily have been invented today. Slip it into conversation in the next time you experience something unjust.

9. Savvy, Savey, or Sabby

What It Meant: To know or understand

While we still use this word to mean something like “literate” (computer-savvy), in Colonial times, it was actually used more like the way Jack Sparrow uses it. So you might say, “I don’t want to come to work anymore, savvy that?” According to Merriam-Webster, it’s derived from sabe, which means “he knows” in Portuguese. This became sabi in Creole, and later, “savvy.”

10. Adam’s Ale

What It Meant: Water

If you’re feeling thirsty for water, try using this slang term that was popular on both sides of the pond in the Colonial era. To quote a 1792 American poem by Philip Freneau, “In reason’s scale his actions weigh’d / His spirits want no foreign aid / Long life is his, in vigour passes / A spring that never grew stale / Such virtue lies in Adam’s Ale.”

11. Shaver

What It Meant: A young or adolescent boy

To call a boy a shaver was to imply that they were young enough that they just started shaving. Which is fitting, if a little condescending—like they’re not embarrassed enough already!

12. Jollification

What It Meant: Celebration or merrymaking

It's hard to even say jollification without sounding like a reenactor at Colonial Williamsburg. And though jollification sounds like it would be a good thing, it seems like there was also such a thing as too much jollification: The August 10, 1772 edition of The Pennsylvania Packet used the word in a morality tale about a man named Hilario: "What jolification [sic] could be complete without Hilario? Cards succeeded cards every morning to invite him to dinner, to routs, to dances; his only excuse was prior engagement, and he had not resolution to withstand the temptations.” By the end of the tale, according to Children In Colonial America, "a life of cards, women, and wanton spending slowly whittled away his wealth ... no woman would marry him, and even his good looks had failed him."

13. Simon Pure

What It Meant: The real deal, authentic, untainted

A delightful phrase that rolls off the tongue and could be dropped into many modern sentences. And when someone asks you, “who the heck is Simon?” you tell them that Simon Pure was a Quaker character who has to prove he’s the real Simon Pure in a 1718 play by Susanna Centlivre called A Bold Stroke for a Wife.

14. Circumbendibus

What It Meant: Roundabout

Of all the ways to describe something unnecessarily roundabout— like someone telling a rambling story or taking a weird road when driving somewhere—this word, which dates to 1681, might be the most delightful. It also shows how much we fun we had and still have with language, combining prefixes and suffixes to make new words.

Joe Gillard is the author of The Little Book of Lost Words, and the founder of History Hustle.

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