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From Altoids to Zima: The Surprising Stories Behind 125 Famous Brand Names Paperback – November 9, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Once upon a time, naming a product was as simple as taking the name of its maker and adding a short descriptive tag line, like in the case of Smith’s Pure and Effective Cough Syrup. But this practice changed during the 1800s, says Morris (The Word Detective), when marketers started to take into account the high illiteracy rate among consumers. Hence, logos were born. Nowadays, companies spend exorbitant amounts hiring consultants to create new words for their products. In this slim but fascinating book, Morris reveals the history behind some of the most recognizable product names. Many still bear the name of their maker, such as Chef Boyardee, who was an actual person named Hector Boiardi. Others, like WD-40, refer to the product’s development process: the creators of WD-40 were looking for a "water displacement" substance to repel moisture, and after forty attempts, the product was perfected. Still other product names have nothing to do with their creators or their purpose. Starbucks, for instance, stems from "the coffee-loving first mate in Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby-Dick," and Google is an adaptation of "googol," a word made up by a mathematician’s nine-year-old nephew to represent a "very, very large number, ten raised to the hundredth power." The book contains a wealth of product information, but it is Morris’s jaunty prose and humorous sidebars—on topics ranging from unfortunately named companies like Poolife to the association of product names and urban legends (i.e., Pop Rocks killed Mickey)—that make this a delightful read.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Evan Morris divides his time between a rambling old farmhouse in rural Ohio and an apartment in New York City. His syndicated column, "The Word Detective," is read all over the U.S. as well as in Mexico and Japan. The award-winning Word Detective web site receives over five thousand hits a week. Evan Morris is the author of The Book Lover's Guide to the Internet.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 199 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Original ed. edition (November 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743257979
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743257978
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #311,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Great trivia book. My family has taken this book to work and treated co-workers to interesting tidbits of information that surprised people who have used different brands in the book and didn't know how the products were named or invented. Great fun.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a fun and informative book that provided some interesting insights into the stories behind the many brand names we come across in our everyday lives. I read this on my Kindle and it was the perfect book for reading on the Kindle. I could read about a few brands, go back to reading something else and revisit this without skipping beat. It's a fun and enjoyable book and I highly recommend it.
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Format: Kindle Edition
If you always wanted to know the story behind some of the most famous brand names around, this is a good start. The main flaw I found with the book was a lack of pictures of said products. I didn't need a pic of an Apple computer or a Mercedes Benz car but some of the choices were very American-centric. That's fine but not all of us know what Red Baron pizza is? I had no clue that was one of America's most well-known frozen pizzas. (Then again who with any semblance of taste buds buys frozen pizza?)

The book covers food, drink, clothing, technology, toys, cars/vehicles, drugs and cosmetics plus some other stuff that's harder to pigeonhole into an easy category.

I'm sure nowadays you can look all this up on Wiki so it's just if you want a light easy read all in one place on products.
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Format: Paperback
With the surname Zima, I had to see what his book had to say about the beverage brand by Coors. It had it right that Zima in Slavic languages and Russian is "winter" or "cold." It had additional marketing insight like how Zima rolls off the tongue and is a good product name, according to people who study those things. Anyway, bottoms up to this book... I toast to it with an old bottle of Zima.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Can you find most of the information in this book by doing some Google internet searches?...Yes

But this is written well with a little bit of comedy mixed in. Great bathroom or coffee table reading.
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From Altoids to Zima: The Surprising Stories Behind 125 Famous Brand Names
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