Right on! for the genericized noun

wordbrandsThis newspaper writer I’ve met notes: “MS Word kept capitalizing ‘laundromat.’ I checked, and Webster’s agrees. Westinghouse copyrighted it back in 1947. But. . . . really?” This led to this interesting discussion about all the words that, once upon a time, were capitalized because they were brand names but are not now:

App Store, Aspirin, Catseye, Cellophane, Dopp kit [I had to look this up, even though I’ve had one!], Dry ice, Escalator, Heroin, Kerosene, Lanolin, Linoleum, Mimeograph, Primal Therapy, Thermos, Touch-tone, Videotape, Yo-Yo, and Zipper.

And Dumpster. I mean, what else would you CALL that thing? According to this article: “The alternatives recommended by AP (‘trash bin’ and ‘trash container’) are too vague. And the Times definition (‘trash hauling bin’) is too clunky.” I totally agree. So you’re SUPPOSED to Capitalize it, according to the style books, but almost no one does, except spellcheckers. As someone noted about the Dumpster people, “They really got the hold on it. my goal in life is to invent a thing that’s way more popularly known by what I named it than by what it is.”

And the correspondents seemed to get feisty on this branding topic: not capitalizing Kleenex, or Xerox, or Coke because in part of the country, coke could be a 7-Up or “diet dr. pepper.” Of course, you always have to worry about autocorrect.

You know who get REALLY fussy about these: The National Association of Realtors. It’s their members who are known as Realtors, and if you are listing houses in the US, and don’t belong to the association, you are NOT a Realtor.

BoingBoing complained about irritating midword capitalization of brand names such as ProQuest or iPhone and PayPal; I would describe that annoying incaps trend, stealing the phrase, as corporate graffiti.

But I draw the line at lower case for initialization such as ZIP code; ZIP means Zone Improvement Plan.
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