Copying the 60 Blog

Image result for copier images

Facial recognition software can pick a person out of a crowd, but the vending machine at work can’t recognize a dollar with a bent corner.

New copiers were set up at the office today.  The installer gave the staff a demonstration of what the “big daddy” machine can do.

I remember when copiers were enormous and only made black and white copies.  We didn’t have such things as double-sided or color copies, we didn’t even know what a searchable PDF was, the copier wasn’t capable of double-stapling on the side margin, and we didn’t have the ability to email the scanned document to yourself or someone else.  We didn’t even have email yet!

I wish I had bought stock in Canon or Xerox or other copy companies years ago.  Forty years later, I could now be living in the South of France.

This had me thinking of descriptive words we use everyday.  How did we come to use the generic word “Xerox” when talking about making copies?  Proprietary eponyms are general words that are, or were at one time, proprietary brand names or service marks.

Kleenex, for example, is a brand of facial tissues, yet the word is used today to refer to facial tissues of any brand.  Xerox is a brand of photocopy machine, and the word has been adopted to refer to any brand of photocopy machine.  It is also used as a verb to describe the act of photocopying.  As this illustrates, although brand names are proper adjectives (as in, “Kleenex facial tissues”), when such terms are adopted for general use they tend to become nouns and often also verbs.

Words such as Dumpster, Brillo pad, Laundromat, Life Savers, Teflon and Frisbee are proprietary eponyms.  Others seem to have long-lasting trademarks; it seems like a long time since anyone has used the words Palm Pilot, Ditto Machine, Walkman, Green Stamps or TV dinner.  We also use many words that are now common and whose trademarks have expired, such as granola, heroin, pogo stick, and shredded wheat.

But answer me this:  is this a sexism issue we should be concerned about?  Jockey shorts is still a valid trademark, while the trademarks on brassiere and corselette are both expired.

 

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