Friday, August 15, 2008

Just Use the Trademark, Already!

When I worked on our company's "fun with and for kids" magazine, we had big debates about certain terminology.

Popsicle being one.

Popsicle is a trademark, and so we avoided it. Even though often we wished we could use it. First for the dessert treat, and second for the flat sticks w/ rounded ends that make great log cabins, etc.

For the food, we called them ice pops.

For the sticks? although I certainly called them "Popsicle sticks" as a kid, and that's an instantly recognizable term--we avoided it for crafts done w/ those flat sticks. Technically, they are named "craft sticks."

When you go to buy a bunch of them at the craft store, that's what the package will be labeled. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

If you want to buy a bunch online, that's what you should search for. (And of course, you don't want to use TRUE Popsicle sticks, bcs they'll be stained red or purple, and sticky to boot*.)

We sometimes used the term "ice-pop sticks" for food references ("use ice-pop sticks for the corn dogs," e.g.). Our ice-pop recipes called for ice-pop molds, or paper cups and "pop sticks."

Why am I writing about this? Here is what I saw in this morning's funnies. Note the term "ice-cream sticks."

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
The comic strip One Big Happy for 8/15

It took me a while to get this joke, first bcs I blanked at "ice-cream sticks" (they're technically "ice-cream bar sticks" anyway) and second because "those sticks are sold separately" made me assume you had to buy one stick at a time.

If the writer wren't trying so hard to avoid the trademark, it would have been a much easier joke.

What trademark do you wish was a generic?

*And where did "to boot" come from? I'll look that up later.


Drew said...

Easy. Dumpster. Just because I hate having to capitalize it and because it's the word everyone uses to refer to it.

JD said...

In the UK we call them 'lolly sticks' or (less common) 'ice-cream sticks', so the cartoon strip didn't phase me.

I hate having to write 'hook-and-loop fastener' instead of 'Velcro' in the publication I work for.

Editrix said...

Fiberglas. For a few months now, I've been editing a lot of documents that have to do with the construction of a museum, which contains a lot of Fiberglas--or, as the documents usually spell it, fiberglass. We don't write around the problem; we just break trademark law and say "Fiberglas." But still, I'm SO over capitalizing all those F's and deleting all those S's.

TootsNYC said...

Except, if it's the generic, isn't "fiberglass" appropriate? (even if it is the brand, though of course if the brand owner is paying for the publication, they're going to want their stupid trademark everywhere possible). I'd have thought that dropping the S was a deliberate misspelling intended to differentiate the brand name from the general term.

JD, that's interesting--it made me wonder if the cartoonist has a UK background. But no, Rick Detorie was born in Maryland and lives in California.

I hate hook-and-loop fastener, too--I esp. hated it when Velcro was the only available brand.

I remember being surprised to find that "Jetway" and "Tarmac" are trademarks.

JD said...

House style on our publication is 'glass fibre' to get around the brand name. And yeah, we have to use asphalt instead of Tarmac.

The Ridger, FCD said...

"Boot" is from an Old English word meaning remedy or compensation (related to "better", in fact). Where I grew up you'd hear old-timers use it to mean "a bit extra" when they were haggling (just "a boot" or sometimes "a $5 boot"). In Henry VI part 1 Talbot says "Surely, by all the glory you have won,
An if I fly, I am not Talbot's son:
Then talk no more of flight, it is no boot;
If son to Talbot, die at Talbot's foot."

So "to boot" means "to be extra"...

The Ridger, FCD said...

errr. Make that "John Talbot says to Talbot"....

TootsNYC said...

My dictionary (bcs I did look this up right after I posted) has "boot" as meaning "profit."

Oh, and I've never heard "Tarmac" used to mean anything but "the surface of the airport runway and surrounding area that's similarly paved"--almost always in the term "sitting on the Tarmac."

We don't actually use "Tarmac" for roads; those are either asphalt or blacktop (blacktop in places where the logical alternative is gravel, such as the county I grew up in; asphalt in areas where the other alternative is concrete paving, such as the city I now live in)

Anonymous said...

Band-aids (adhesive bandages) and Q-tips (cotton swabs); those are trademarks I wish were generic.

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