The Ridiculous Origin Of 8 Popular Brand Names

If you've ever gone to one of those baby name websites and discovered that your name is the Celtic word for "wood louse" or the Arabic word for "lousy wood," then you know the thrill of etymology. But sadly, not all names are as lousy as yours. Some are worse. Particularly names for products ...

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8
Gibberish Drug Names Are Invented By Two Women In Chicago

Generic drug names don't come to us from think tanks or Latin roots, or even some kind of pharmaceutical Sorting Hat. They come from the United States Adopted Names program, which sounds like an official something or other, but is actually just Stephania Shubat and Gail Karet. They review applications from drug manufacturers and suggest random generic names.

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These names must not sound too much like the brand names, so that patients won't get confused. Also, similar drugs will likely share suffixes. Lorazepam and Temazepam both end in "zepam" because they have similar structures. "Zepam" means ze jack s**t, though.

The process is a bizarre one that includes avoiding any syllables that potentially sound offensive, as well as certain letters -- like W, K, H, or J -- so as to not trip up non-native Engish speakers. How kind!

7
"Haagen-Dazs" Is Meaningless "Dutch" Nonsense

Haagen-Dazs is regular ice cream that they somehow hid big cubes of buttery fried pork in. Don't take that as a statement that's actionable in a court of law, but a half cup of vanilla Haagen-Dazs has 250 calories and 17 grams of fat. A Big Mac has 15 grams of fat. And let's not mince words, no one ever ate a half cup of ice cream, because why start some s**t you can't finish? You eat that whole tub of Haagen-Dazs, because that's what Jesus would do.

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They put fat in there in abundance, which is why it's so much better than every other weak-ass ice cream on the market that advertises how it's made with real bing cherries or some bullshit no one ever cared about. Must be some old-world Dutch secret, right? Yeah, nah. This s**t ain't Dutch.

Ruben Mattus, creator of Haagen-Dazs, apparently spent hours at his kitchen table back in 1961 trying to concoct a name for his cream. He wanted something Danish-sounding, for two reasons. 1) In his mind, Danish dairy products had a good reputation (and this is true; think of all that Danish milk you insist on at restaurants). 2) The Danes were good to the Jewish people during World War II. So that's all it took.

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Related: 6 Bizarre Origins Of Famous Companies

6
GlaxoSmithKline Is Named After The Powdered Milk They Used To Sell

GlaxoSmithKline is a massive drug manufacturer that made $36 billion in revenue in 2018 by selling stuff like Augmentin. I don't know what that does, and don't want to know, because it won't live up to a name that sounds like a formula meant to make wolf/man hybrids from a '70s sci-fi movie.

So where did that crazy name come from? Well, you can probably guess the "Smith" part, and maybe even the "Kline" part, but what's a Glaxo? Originally the company was looking for it to be "Lacto," because for all the drugs and vaccines they make today, in the late 1800s, they were up to their nuts in dried milk. That was their business, and they wanted a name that said "Hey look, dried milk!"

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Sadly, someone had beaten them to the punch, because in the 1800s, dried milk was as popular as cats on the internet. When someone steals your first idea, what do you do? Look up milk in the dictionary, discover the Greek word "galactin," and name your company "Glaxo."

5
"Kinkos" Was Based On The Founder's Weird (Non-Sexual) Nickname

When's the last time you went to a Kinkos? Been a while, right? Like 2008? Yes, it was 2008 at the latest, because FedEx bought that company and changed all the names or turned all of the old locations into haberdasheries. Knock me over with a feather, because I was positive there was one downtown by the hot dog guy, but no, that was over a decade ago. It's quite possible I have not been downtown since 2005, though. Anyway, back to Kinkos. What the hell does "Kinkos" mean?

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If you never got to one back in the day, it was like a copy place. Copies were things you paid people to make of paper documents because you wanted more than one of them. "Paper" was something you could print Google docs on if you wanted to burn them later without a lot of trouble. It was cute! Cute business. The name, of course, referred to the fact that the owner had curly red hair, and not that the business was a den of kinky perversion. Why would you even guess that? Why would you guess "Kinkos" referred to anything other than curly hair? For crying out loud.

Related: The Surprisingly Strange Origins Of 22 Famous Companies

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4
"Taser" Is A Whimsical Acronym

Hey, remember that guy who didn't want you to tase him, bro? I don't give a s**t what year it is, that's still worth a chuckle. Heh-heh. He said don't, and they tased him anyway. And what did they do it with? A taser! Which is like a tech-laser? Tight phaser? Taserrati Supremo? Nah, the real meaning is much better.

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"Taser" is one of those words that's actually an acronym. Technically you should write it in all caps, like you're screaming -- maybe screaming like a guy who doesn't want to be tased, bro. It was developed back in 1969 by a fellow who worked at NASA. And because nerd stereotypes have to be ironclad, the name came from one of his favorite books, a 1911 sci-fi novel.

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The term stands for "Tom Swift And His Electric Rifle," which you'll notice should be TSAHER, or at the very least TSAER. But that doesn't sound like anything, so who gives a s**t? A fun side effect of this story, of course, is that if you yell "Don't tase me, bro" at someone, you're apparently yelling "Don't Tom Swift and his electric rifle me, bro!"

3
"Sony" Is A Bastardized Version Of "Sonny"

If you're ignorant like me, you assumed "Sony" was like the last name of the CEP or something. Maybe it's the Japanese word for "Walkman." But enough with the speculation, because it turns out it is neither of those things.

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The origin of the name "Sony" is far dumber than it has any right to be. The most reasonable part is that before Sony was Sony, they manufactured audio tapes called Soni-tapes, which came from the Latin word for "sound," sonus. That sounds legit, right? "Sound," "Sony." No problem.

But there's a second layer to the name. The CEO of Sony was looking for a name that conveyed "youthful energy and irreverence." And what better way to do that than with the English phrase "sonny boy"? Thanks to the way the letter "o" is pronounced in English versus Japanese, the "sonny" aspect was lost in translation, and Sony gets all its youthful vitality from a nickname last uttered by an old-timey prospector trying to warn off a claim jumper.

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Related: 30 Everyday Products That Have Insane Origin Stories

2
Google Is Named After A Typo

"Google" is a number, or it almost is. Googol is a number. It's 10 to the power of 100, but I'm not sure how to write superscript in here. It's a one followed by 100 zeroes. That's a huge-ass number. So what the hell does it have to do with Google the company?

In 1997, Google's founders needed a name. One of them suggested "Googolplex." A googolplex is 1 followed by a googol's worth of 0s. Has the word lost meaning for you yet? Anyway, that's an unwieldy name, so they hacked it down to "Googol." All they needed to do was make sure the domain was free, but according to legend, they mistyped it as "Google" and kind of liked it more. And thus was born the most massive website ever.

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1
"Mountain Dew" Was A Moonshiner Term

Mountain Dew is the most delicious hyper yellow liquid that relates to geographical strata you will ever drink, and I will die on that hill. The name sounds vaguely refreshing and kind of exciting, right? You've probably never given a second thought to how this drink got named, because it seems so obvious. Oddly, it's not.

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Back in simpler times, moonshiners used to call their brew "mountain dew." That seems like a fun joke for blindness-inducing alcohol cooked up in mountain stills. There are even Appalachian folk songs about mountain dew, and they sure as s**t aren't singing about soda. But it's no coincidence that the soda shares the name. A pair of brothers, Barney and Ally Hartman, created Mountain Dew as a whisky chaser back in 1932. They gave it that name so no one would be confused as to what its purpose was. To drive the point home, they even had a mascot, "Willy the Hillbilly," who was shooting at a guy running out of an outhouse on the label.

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For a fun twist on this story, Mountain Dew was also blamed for a serious uptick in raunchy Appalachian teeth. It was like Frankenstein's monster coming home to slowly erode his enamel and put him at increased risk of diabetes, which was the original but ultimately rejected ending to Mary Shelley's novel.

For more, check out If Every Fictional Company Held A Job Fair:


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