The BLC Blog

A forum and learning place for British Language Centre students

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Brand Names That Have Become Verbs

Brand names can become generic when they are so commonly used that people associate the brand name for every product of that type regardless of who manufactures it. Some brand names become so generic that people begin to use them as verbs describing the action that is carried out with the product. Let's look at the most common examples of this in English.

First of all, we have the verb 'to hoover' or 'do the hoovering'. In the UK this verb means to 'vacuum clean' or 'do the vacuuming' and comes from the well-known vacuum cleaner trademark, Hoover.

Another brand verb is 'to xerox' (pronounced 'zeerocks') which in American English is used to mean 'to photocopy'. The noun 'a xerox' also exists to talk about a photocopy. It doesn't matter if you use a Canon photocopier or a HP, people in the States still say 'I need to xerox this report'.

One of the newest and most common brand verbs is 'to google'. This of course means to search for something on the internet. Since most people use Google as their search engine this is the verb that caught on and not 'to Yahoo' or to 'MSN'. One of my hobbies is doing cryptic crosswords and if I am not sure of a word, I always google it!

Now, although this might seem like positive and free advertising for the companies involved, over the years most of these giant corporations have paid their lawyers a lot of money to help them fight against it! You can read this article from the BBC news, which despite being old, is still relevant.

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