Proprietary Eponyms

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You and I use the language form that serves as the title for this article daily, even if you do not realize you are. What in the world is a proprietary eponym? Before I give you the technical definition, I will illustrate how often we use this means of language classification in daily conversation about a variety of everyday items.

If I asked you for a Kleenex, would you know what I wanted? Of course. Would you think about examining the container, and upon discovering that it was not manufactured by the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, inform me: “Sorry, I do not have Kleenex, but I do have facial tissue.” Or, how would you feel if you cut your finger and asked for a band-aid, but I replied: “Unfortunately, I am not able to supply you with a Band-Aid from Johnson & Johnson because I only have adhesive bandages.” By now, you understand what a proprietary eponym is.

The technical definition according to one source is: “A successful brand name or trademark that has come into general use to refer to the generic class of objects rather than the specific brand type, without the exclusive rights to said product being lost by the parent company.” An additional definition describes these as a “generic trademark, also known as a genericized trademark or proprietary eponym, is a trademark or brand name that, because of its popularity or significance, has become the generic name for, or synonymous with, a general class of product or service, usually against the intentions of the trademark’s holder.”

If you are offered a coke (or pop, for you readers in the northern United States) to drink, it may not be the formula that traces its origins back to the creation of John Pemberton in the late 18th century, but it might be any variation of carbonated beverages from a variety of manufacturers. Yet, you have no trouble understanding what the one who offered the refreshment intended by the question. The same thing goes when dealing with Q-tips, Jell-O, Windex, Legos, Sharpies, Xerox machines, and a host of other items we encounter in day-to-day living.

Sadly, we run into thinking regularly in the religious realm. What is a Christian? According to most, a Christian is anyone who has any level of devotion to Jesus Christ. Some would say that this term applies to any and all who are born in a Christian nation like the United States, or it fits those whose parents claim a Christian heritage. Classifying yourself as a Christian does not require anything other than self-declaration, according to the thinking of our modern age, but what does the Book that gives the definition say?

Christians are individuals who, upon their faith in Jesus as the Son of God, submits in obedience to the commands of the Gospel preached by the apostles of Jesus beginning in Acts 2. This obedience is initially observed when upon responding to the Gospel, they are born again by being baptized or immersed in water, which grants them forgiveness of sins, according to Acts 2:38. Following this response, God places them in the church over which Jesus is head (Acts 2:47). They live lives devoted to loving God and loving others by following the example of Jesus. They strive to obey and do all that God teaches to do in the way God says to do it in His Word, the Bible! This includes worshiping as God teaches and daily devotion to prayer, study, and living as the Bible teaches. This is the true definition of a Christian. Just calling yourself a Christian does not make you one. Many things and many people labeled Christian are not. Are you wearing the name and not the real product? Read the New Testament and do what it teaches to be a Christian today!