I remember back in the ’80s when I was reading a some aspiring-writer magazine of the sort and came across an ad for Xerox asking, rather pleading, that aspiring writers stop using ‘Xerox’ as a verb or noun in their stories.
At the time I never quite understood the reasoning. I was too young and hyperactive to ever read past a headline and get into the body copy. I was left to wonder why they weren’t happy that their name was so popular that it had become part of the vernacular. Certainly it had to make competitors like Canon miserable. And isn’t making your competitors miserable what business is all about? Xerox should have been thrilled, but they weren’t. They did not want you to Xerox things or hand out Xeroxes to the classroom.
It’s some twenty years later and apparently that battle is not going too well. A recent issue of the Hollywood Reporter featured more of the same ‘ Xerox, a huge corporate entity, begging the little people to stop using their name as a noun or verb. I guess they’re worried that screenwriters will pitch flicks with protagonists Xeroxing classified documents as the quintessential black government helicopter hovers outside the office window.
I now understand the reasoning behind the whining: the lawyers call it ‘trademark dilution.’ Fair enough. They’re afraid of losing their trademark status if the brand name becomes, well, a common word. But the whole idea of trying to convince folks to not talk a certain way seems about as probable as getting everyone to not say ain’t or knowhatimsayin’ or to stop putting like in front of every fourth word.
Likewise, no amount of time, money or energy is going to convince me to talk a certain way. Starbucks counter help can call it venti until they’re red in the face, but it’s large to me, and that’s what I’m going to order. Large is a perfectly good word, and there’s no reason I should need to translate my coffee order into Starbucksi, Coffish, Javese, or whatever they’d like me to speak.
The money Xerox has been spending on this endeavor might have been better spent on other things. Such as the technology to keep copiers from breaking down every 20 minutes.
So, we know that Xerox would prefer that we copy things and staple those copies together, but folks will continue to Xerox things and staple those Xeroxes together. People will continue to Google and be Googled. The English Hoover their floors. I was supposed to FedEx someone yesterday. People will Rollerblade even though Rollerblade would prefer they inline skate.
Hormel, ever the good sport, lets us refer to junk mail as Spam. They know that there’s no turning back now.
Xerox is, and has been, a household word. Xeroxing sounds better than Toshibaing or making several Konicas of your thesis. Basically, whoever came up with the brand name Xerox was so good at their job that they created a name that not only achieved brand awareness but crept its way into’ Webster’s.