Ever wonder how the dozens of branded products — from packaged foods and beverages to personal care items and cleaning products— got their names?
Some names are a window to the history of a product while others provide a snapshot of the times in which the product was invented. Take a look.
Why Do We Call It That?
Listerine™ was named after Joseph Lister, a British physician who pioneered the now obvious idea of using disinfectants in hospitals and during surgery. The pungent liquid named after him was first sold as a general-purpose antiseptic for surgical use in 1879. In 1895, it was marketed to dentists. It wasn’t until 1914 that Listerine was sold over the counter as a mouthwash. It was also used to clean wounds on the battlefield during the First World War. So next time you gargle, thank Dr. Lister for killing your germs.
Product names that include numbers are often a source of speculation. Some believe Formula 409™ was named for the area code where it was invented or an April 9 birthday of the inventor’s daughter. But the official website of the product explains that the name was the result of extreme persistence. The two scientists in Detroit who invented the cleaning product weren’t pleased with it until the 409th batch.
Another confusing number can be found in Heinz 57 Varieties. While riding in a New York City train in 1896, Henry Heinz, founder of the H. J. Heinz Company, saw a sign advertising 21 styles of shoes and he thought using a number was a clever sales tactic. Although his company was manufacturing more than 60 products at the time, Henry thought 57 was a lucky number. Today the company produces thousands of products, but still uses the number 57.
Lego™ is synonymous with small plastic interlocking bricks that kids play with. The name is formed from the Danish words “LEg GOdt” meaning “play well.” Ironically, in Latin lego can mean, “I put together.” For smaller kids LEGO makes Duplo bricks. Duplo comes from the Latin word duplus, which translates literally as double and Duplo bricks are twice the size of Lego bricks.
Now that we have digital clocks and touch screen phones, we don’t think of dials much. But when Dial™ soap was introduced in 1948, clocks had dials, and since this was the first soap to contain an antibacterial ingredient, the name “Dial” was chosen to emphasize its “Round The Clock” deodorant protection.
This story was featured in the 2015 Farmers’ Almanac.