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November 1, 2006

Verbification: It’s Not Just for Brand Names

We’ve written before about the frustration companies like Google experience with “genericide” and the losing battle to prevent the public from using their trademarked product names as verbs.

XeroxHaving your product name turned into a verb is a sign of market penetration, a price paid for success - but “verbification” is not restricted to brand names. The fact is, English speakers like shortcuts. It just takes too long to say “Look that up on the Google™ search engine” or “photocopy this on the Xerox® machine.”

Everywhere you turn, people are converting previously self-respecting, law-abiding nouns, adjectives, and adverbs into verbs. Computer programmers use “obsolete” as a transitive verb. Gay rights activists “out” public figures who try to hide their homosexuality.

We hardly even notice anymore when we hear a businessperson talk about how a particular action will “impact” the bottom line. And then there’s the particularly cringeworthy use of “text” to mean “send an SMS text message.” It’s especially painful in the past tense: “Oh, yeah, he texted me about that yesterday.”

TiVoNo matter how we feel about it, the phenomenon of verbification is here to stay. If there’s already a quick, easy way to describe using your product or service, then your brand name might be safe. But if your product does something new and not easily described, like TiVo or Skype, you can pretty much count on getting verbified.

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Posted by Diane Prange at November 1, 2006 12:16 PM
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» Trademarks and Superstitions from Strategic Name Development Product Naming Blog
Seth Godin has me thinking about trademarks. Moreover, I have noticed that for some reason a number of bloggers are posting about the difficulties and ambiguities around registering trademarks and what they actually are. Seth's post refers to generic t... [Read More]

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