By Any Other Name


Did you ever wonder where certain products got their name? Scotch tape. Kleenex. Q-tips. We use these products every day, but they are so familiar that we may seldom ponder why they are called what they are.

Why is a swab of cotton on the end of a stick a “Q” tip? Why not an “A” tip or a “B” tip? Turns out the “Q” stands for quality. The product was originally named “Baby Gays,” as they were mostly used on babies. No one seems quite sure where the “gays” part came from, including the manufacturer (Unilever), but hey, it was the 1920s. Just another case of words changing meaning over time.

Scotch tape, made by the 3M company, got its name partly because the company’s founders were Scottish. There is also a legend that their new 1930s invention, cellophane tape, was accused of shoddy construction since it only had adhesive on the edges and not the entire surface. It was therefore “scotch,” or made on the cheap. The M’s in “3M,” incidentally, stand for Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, as the company started out in the mining industry.

As for Kleenex, the name is meant to denote “clean.” The “K” prefix and “-ex” suffix are borrowed from the Kimberly-Clark company’s first consumer brand, Kotex feminine products. Curiously, Kleenex were not originally intended as disposable handkerchiefs, but for the removal of cold cream. The nasal use significantly increased their popularity and sales.

All of these products had their birth in the 1920s and ‘30s, and all have become household words for their particular type of product, regardless of the trademark of the manufacturer.

1 Comment

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One response to “By Any Other Name

  1. Ann McGrath

    Very interesting!

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