Next time the escalator stops, think genericide


The term “genericide” popped out from a story I read this week about trademark protection.

It’s an odd, specialized word, and yet it fits its meaning perfectly.

As Andrew Torrance explains in the article, genericide means the death of a trademark at the hands of outsiders who use it generically. He gave the example of escalator, which was once a brand name.

According to an article in the journal Science, the escalator was patented by George Wheeler in 1892, but by 1915 when Wheeler received an award, the journal used the term lowercase.

That was a slap in the face, of sorts, but I’m not shedding any tears. The generic escalator was a far better term than inclined elevator, which is what the Otis Elevator Co. called a similar contraption in 1900, according to an article that year in Scientific American.

I don’t see genericide working its way into the vernacular the way escalator did. You’ll still not find it in most dictionaries. The word may roll off the tongue easily, but it lacks widespread utility.

Still, I’ll think about it the next time I ride an escalator. On the other hand, I’m hoping to banish inclined elevator from my mind until someone comes up with a perfect remedy for nauseacide.

Or maybe I’ll just take the non-moving staircase.

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