I was reading A Free Life by Ha Jin on the plane yesterday, and noticed that the book capitalized “Dumpster”.  I hadn’t realized before then that Dumpster is actually a brand-name-turned-word… So I tried to come up with some more on the plane ride, but all I could think of was Popsicle (only because the same book capitalized that too) and Post-It.

As Jack and I drove home from the airport, we came up with a few more, then Googled it at home and came up with a short list:

  1. Dumpster
  2. Popsicle
  3. Post-It
  4. Jeep
  5. Vaseline
  6. Kleenex
  7. Aspirin
  8. Thermos
  9. Zipper
  10. Tupperware

It’s pretty fascinating to me.  According to Wikipedia, these are genericized trademarks.  I think it’s interesting how some brands can become so popular and often used that they’ve come to stand for the item they brand.  I remember I once borrowed a three-inch-thick book from the library in elementary or middle school full of words and their origins.  I guess I’m fascinated by how words and phrases come to be… I like how Chinese characters are made up of parts that contribute both sound and/or definition.

Not to mention I used “Google” as a verb… and of course we “friend” people on Facebook.

I’ve never seen Dumpster and Popsicle capitalized in books before this one.  My theory is that the Chinese author did a lot of research on English because it wasn’t his first language… interesting that the book is about a Chinese man who wants to write poetry in English, also not his first language.

I’m tempted to capitalize these genericized trademarks from now on, but I’d probably be “corrected” by people or lose points in classwork.

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