Product names

12 Jun

I was thinking about the fact that in America many products are referred to by the most popular brand name of that product.

For example, “Post-It“. It’s a brand-name…not actually the name for the adhesive memo paper. But nearly everyone in America uses the name “Post-It” as the generic name for this product.

PostItI’m not even sure what the correct name of the product is in English!

In Japan, referring to a product by a brand-name is almost never done. How about in your country?

Here in Japan, those adhesive memo papers that are called 「タックメモ」 (tack-memo)…not “Post-It“.

In America, many products are referred to by a company’s name.

Other examples are:

Coke“, “7-Eleven“, “Q-Tips“, “Jell-o“, “Xerox“, “Velcro“, “Thermos“, “Scotch Tape“, “Walkman“, and “Gameboy“.

The correct names for those products in English are:
“cola”, “convenience store”, “cotton swabs”, “gelatin dessert”, “copy machine”, “hook-and-loop tape”, “insulated beverage container”, “cellophane tape”, “portable music player”, and “portable game player”.

In Japanese they are:
「コーラ」 (cola), 「コンビニ」 (konbini (convenience store)), 「メンボー」 (menbou (cotton swabs)), 「ゼリー」 (jelly (gelatin dessert)), 複写機 (fukushaki (copy machine)), 「マジック・テープ」 (magic tape (hook-and-loop tape (Velcro))), 水筒 (suitou (insulated drink container)), 「セロファンテープ」 (cellophane tape), 「ウォークマン」 (Walkman ®), 「ゲームボーイ」 (Gameboy ®).

25 Responses to “Product names”

  1. Lisa July 24, 2009 at 5:33 pm #

    There are so many American brands that we quote as products, like ‘scotch’ and ‘post-it’, but also tupperware, zippo, kleenex, polaroïd, ipod… but also other foreign brands.

    The main problem we have in France is that we use a capital letter for names (people, locations and… brands). But when you just write a product, you do not use a capital letter. So what to do with a brand that you quote as a product?! I guess we are still figuring out…

    About the pronounciation, you are right. The thing is that there is no official French pronounciation for those words and all the other Anglo-saxon imported words that we use everyday, so everyone just say it the way they can, it can be so funny!


    • tokyo5 July 24, 2009 at 6:21 pm #

      I would like to hear how they’re pronounced in France!

      I’m sure you know, there are many French words in English that I’m sure Americans pronounce completely different than the original French pronunciation.
      For example, champagne, chauffeur, chandelier…and even chocolate comes from French, I’ve heard.


  2. Lisa July 23, 2009 at 5:46 pm #

    That is so true. And in France, as we use the American brand name, we can’t even pronounce it correctly most of the times! And when it is not brand names, we often use the American name of the product.

    A couple of years ago, a law passed in France saying that it was forbidden to use English based words and that we had to use the French ones (and a lot of words were created at that time). Well not forbidden in street talking but on all professionnal and advertisement communication. It was ‘an attempt to save the French language’. It did not work well !!


    • tokyo5 July 24, 2009 at 2:14 am #

      It’s very interesting!

      I wonder which American brand names are used in France…and how they are pronounced. (I wouldn’t say they’re pronounced incorrectly…just French style. Japanese pronounce English Japanese style.)


  3. Baby Sis June 25, 2009 at 1:12 am #

    Dad–you are right about the Band-Aid commercial. Sadly, I can recite the song as proof: “I am stuck on Band-Aid brand ’cause germs don’t stick on me…” Wow…all of this just demonstrates my media-sponginess and robotic consumerism….hehehe.


    • tokyo5 June 25, 2009 at 2:02 am #

      Well, either my memory has faded or they’ve changed their jingle since I was a child
      (or both (*.*) )…
      but I recall the U.S. Band-Aid TV commercial’s song as going like this:

      ♪ “I’m stuck on Band-Aid, ‘cuz Band-Aid‘s stuck on me!” ♪♪


  4. Baby Sis June 25, 2009 at 1:06 am #

    Ooh, interesting post! I have thought about this same thing before. Oh darn, I wanted to say “Band-Aid” but Tornadoes28 beat me to it. :). Another one is I call them sticky notes, too. Let’s see…I call coke “soda”…and it’s interesting that some people in certain regions in the U.S. call it “pop” or “sodapop”. I DO call it “Scoth tape, which seems alot easier than saying “hook-and-loop-whatever-thingamabobber” 🙂 …..I think “7-Eleven” was only used because by OUR house growing up we used to go there alot because it was nearby…but now we might say “CVS” or “Walgreens” or even “convenient store” …..I do say “Q-Tips“ and “Jello”…I say “copy machine” at work and so do my coworkers… I do say “Velcro“, “Thermos“, “walkman”, and “Gameboy“. Sorry for the lengthy response…just fascinating in a nerdy sort of way! 🙂


    • tokyo5 June 25, 2009 at 1:55 am #

      >Ooh, interesting post!

      Thank you.

      >I call coke “soda”…and it’s interesting that some people in certain regions in the U.S. call it “pop” or “sodapop”.

      Oh, that’s right…most people in America refer to cola as “soda”.

      >I DO call it “Scoth tape, which seems alot easier than saying “hook-and-loop-whatever-thingamabobber”

      Actually, “Scotch Tape” is a brand of cellophane tape.
      Hook and loop tape” is the proper name for “Velcro” (which is a brand name).
      In Japan, it’s called “Magic tape“.


  5. Tsukareru June 20, 2009 at 12:24 am #

    I didn’t realize that ‘thermos’ wasn’t the proper name… I feel really dumb now!


    • tokyo5 June 20, 2009 at 10:20 am #

      I guess many people don’t know that “Thermos” is a company’s name.


  6. Dad June 16, 2009 at 11:13 am #

    the original name for aspirin was the chemical name acidophillic acid or something like that and aspirin was a brand of that. If a company wants to reestablish their brand they have to say that the name is a brand, like saying Sanka brand or Band-aid brand or they can lose it- like with aspirin.


    • tokyo5 June 17, 2009 at 12:09 am #

      So are you saying, for example, if “McDonalds” became the general term to refer to any fast-food place, the world-famous chain would be forced to change their name??

      That would be unfortunate if a famous company had to give up their name and start over with a new one just because their name was too popular!


  7. Dad June 15, 2009 at 7:28 am #

    I heard that aspirin used to be a brand name but they lost their brand because everyone used it as the generic name of the product so now it is the name everyone uses. People used to call decaf coffee sanka which was a brand so the company had to advertise by saying “Sanka brand” in order to keep their brand name. Sometimes you’ll hear “Bandaid brand” in a Bandaid commercial for the same reason.


    • tokyo5 June 15, 2009 at 6:59 pm #

      Really? “Aspirin” was a brand name?
      Even in Japan, that type of pain reliever is called “aspirin”.

      And “decaffeinated coffee”. I think that’s more popular in America than anywhere else.

      So, if they add the word “brand” to their name, then they can keep their name even if the name becomes a generic term for the product?


  8. cuteandcurls June 13, 2009 at 6:09 pm #

    We used to call scotch tape – cello tape here, Q-tips – cotton buds, band aids – plasters

    By the way I’ve got something to share with your wife & daughters ..something nice to do together in the kitchen so come on over to my site to get the recipe. I used to help my mom and my sisters to make these round biscuits and it was fun aside from all the tasting 😀


    • tokyo5 June 13, 2009 at 11:31 pm #

      OK, thanks! I’ll tell them about it.


  9. Brenda June 13, 2009 at 12:27 pm #

    I remember doing an English assignment on this in HS; there’s also Kool-aid, Kleenex and Matchbox car, my parents and lots of older people call all sugar substitues “Sweet ‘n Low”

    We call Post-Its “sticky notes”.

    We keep and re-use plastic shopping bags, for some reason we call “Wal-Mart bags”, I guess it’s because in the U.S. we shopped almost exclusively at WM, so all the plastic bags we had were always from WM, but even now, when it’s been almost 2 yrs since we’ve shopped at WM, we still say “Use a Wal-Mart bag”.


    • tokyo5 June 13, 2009 at 11:17 pm #

      >I remember doing an English assignment on this in HS;

      How many names did you come up with?

      >there’s also Kool-aid, Kleenex and Matchbox car

      Oh, yeah “Kool-Aid” for the bad tasting sugary drink.
      And “Kleenex” for tissues.
      I forgot about those. Thanks.

      And do people refer to toy metal cars by the company name “Matchbox Cars“?

      >We call Post-Its “sticky notes”.

      I see. I’ve heard many people in America call them simply “Post-Its“.

      I’ve never heard the term “Wal-Mart Bag” before.
      But then again, when I was growing up in America, I had never seen nor even heard of Wal-Mart!
      I don’t know when they opened their first store in Florida…but I had never seen a Wal-Mart store until our trip to America about six years ago.

      BTW, Wal-Mart bought controlling shares of the Japanese chain store Seiyu a few years ago.


      • Brenda June 14, 2009 at 8:12 pm #

        It was a looooooong time ago, can’t remember how many we came up with!

        You’re right, lots of people do call them Post-Its, I’ve just always called them sticky-notes.

        And yes, Matchbox car refers to any brand of the small, metal toy cars. “HotWheels” is also used to refer to any of those cars: “He has 30 hotwheels cars!”.

        Wal-Mart has definitely taken over in FL! We had 3 different stores in 6 mile radius of our house! Recently I heard they’re opening “SuperMercado de Wal-Mart”, a Hispanic supermarket chain of WM, starting in TX and AX!!!!


      • tokyo5 June 14, 2009 at 9:26 pm #

        >a Hispanic supermarket chain of WM

        What’s the difference between a “Hispanic” Wal-Mart and the others? The staff will speak Spanish?

        >starting in TX and AX

        Sorry…does that mean “Texas” and “Arizona”?


  10. tokyo5 June 13, 2009 at 2:06 am #

    As I mentioned in the post, generally Japanese people don’t use brand names in lieu of product names.

    But, besides 「ウォークマン」 (Walkman), 「ゲームボーイ」 (Gameboy) that I mentioned…

    Japanese call a car horn a 「クラクション」 (Klaxon), which is a horn manufacturer.


  11. In10Words aka "Galileo" June 13, 2009 at 1:41 am #

    There’s also the Jacuzzi aka Hot Tubs.


    • tokyo5 June 13, 2009 at 1:58 am #

      Is Jacuzzi a brand name?
      I didn’t know that! Thanks.


  12. Tornadoes28 June 13, 2009 at 12:53 am #

    Another one is Band-aid.


    • tokyo5 June 13, 2009 at 1:30 am #

      Yeah, that’s right. Thanks.

      Band-Aid is a brand-name for adhesive bandages…but it’s become the common term in the U.S. for the bandages in general.

      In Japan, they’re called 「絆創膏」 (Bansoukou).


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