Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Generic v particular

Coming across the phrase 'used cisco' the other day, I had to check it out to see what it meant. Cisco, it turns out, is something that most people in the US would be familiar with, but here in New Zealand, it's an unknown term. Well, I think it's an unknown term, because it doesn't turn up in the reading matter (like newspapers and magazines) that I have contact with.

Cisco is a brand name for computer equipment, but as far as I can make out, it gets used as a generic name for computer equipment. 'Used cisco' is such a common phrase that it turns up hundreds of links on the Net. I guess it's a bit like sellotape, which started out as a brand name, but is now used for all kinds of sticky stuff. And there are plenty more like that. Hoovers as a generic word for vacuum machines, microsoft as a software word, to name just two. Dozens of words we use commonly were once more specific than they now are.

So there we go, all you people who don't live in the States. Now you know something you didn't know ten minutes ago.
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