For me, washing dishes is meditative. As I wash the dishes, I am also flushing away all my worries. Also, dishwashing is exciting — SUDS, water water water, CLEAN! It’s like magic.

The day after moving into my Cambridge home, my housemate Di exclaimed, ‘Joan, you’re so funny! What are the marigolds for?’

‘Marigolds?’ What was she she was talking about?

Di pointed to the new yellow dishwashing gloves that I had just hung over the kitchen sink. ‘That’s what we call kitchen gloves in the US.’

I had bought the gloves on my first trip to the supermarket. Gloves are an important aid to my dishwashing habit.

‘Why are they called marigolds?’ I asked.

‘Oh, I think it’s a brand name,’ Di said.

Interesting. What was it about Marigold gloves that had turned the brand into a generic noun? (*)

The next time I was in the kitchen section of the store, I noticed the hanging rack of Marigold kitchen gloves. I wanted to try them out but I hesitated. They were more than four times the cost of the basic brand of gloves I had bought (£1.25 compared to £0.30 a pair). Could Marigolds really be that special?

I shrugged and picked out a small yellow pair to put in my shopping basket.

I have now been buying Marigolds for all my dishwashing needs for two years. They really are the best ever dishwashing gloves. Lined with flocked cotton, Marigolds feel so nice when I put them on. They also last a lot longer than the basic gloves.

In conclusion, Marigolds make dishwashing even more enjoyable.

(*) Other brands-turned-generic-nouns/verbs include:

  • ‘Gladwrap’ for ‘cling film’ (Australia)
  • ‘Hoover’ for ‘vacuum cleaner’ (UK)
  • ‘Xerox’ for ‘photocopier’ (USA)
  • ‘Kleenex’ for ’tissue’ (USA)
  • ‘Fedex’ for ‘courier’ (USA)
  • ‘Ramen’ for ‘instant noodles’ (USA)
  • ‘Tivo’ for ‘hard disk recorder’ (USA… can someone confirm this?)
  • ‘Rollerblade’ for the noun ‘in line skates’ (international?)
  • ‘Photoshop’ for ‘Digital image editing’ (international?)
  • ‘PowerPoint’ for ‘computer presentation slides’ (international?)
  • (defunct?) ‘Walkman’ for ‘portable casette player’ (international)
  • (emerging) ‘Google‘ for ‘web search’ (international?)

Goodness! Of course I should have expected it — people have written about this topic already. See Wikipedia — Genericized trademark, and a slideshow on AOL — Brand Icons That Made a ‘Name’ for Themselves (a bit US-centric but I didn’t know jacuzzi was a name brand!).

Other suggestions welcome, especially for Australia (I suspect ‘esky’ is one of these).

And why does it seem that the US is prone to turning brand names into generic labels? This is also interesting — examples from other languages and countries.


  1. says:

    Band-Aid is the most commonly used genericized trademark I know.

    An Australian term which comes to mind is “doona” for a quilt.

  2. Yap! It's 3088.. says:

    i wear gloves to wash dishes too. And that’s because i cook alot.

    There’s one generic label i’d have expected an Australian to know – Speedos! 🙂

    and one that I just came across last year from the Brits – TomTom

  3. joanium says:

    Wow, thanks for that! Of course I should have remembered those — Band-Aid, Doona and Speedos. TomTom is an interesting development. In Australia, I don’t think any GPS brand has risen to the top yet.

    When my mum read this blog entry, she immediately thought of ‘Jeep’ for off-road vehicle.

  4. Thara says:

    Panadol is another one. There are other brands like Australian owned Herron, but it is not as popular. I think this name is fairly international. We call it Panadol in Thailand as well. Aspirin is essentially the same thing, but technically it is a trademark name for cetylsalicylic acid.

  5. Brad says:

    havianas is quick becoming the standard flip flop (and in oz this avoids the whole ‘thong’ dilemma). i think ‘to xerox’ is often used in place of ‘to photocopy’. the sherrin is definitely most often used instead of football in the southern states. jif is the standard for cream cleaner and chux the standard wash cloth. melway is synonomous with street directory in melbourne (we were in sydney over the oz day long weekend and kept asking for ‘the melway’ ‘the gregory’ didn’t have the same ring)

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