Friday, November 27, 2009

Just one word: plastic

An opening paragraph in this morning’s Baltimore Sun:

Sitting at a table of strangers in a steamy gymnasium, Michael Brisco poked at turkey on his Styrofoam plate and reflected on the reversals that had buffeted his life these past few months.

Styrofoam is a trademark for a kind of polystyrene manufactured by Dow Chemical for use in insulation and boat construction. Disposable cups and dishes made of plastic foam are not made of Styrofoam.

The carelessness of journalists — admonitions against using Styrofoam for foam plastic plates and cups have been in The Associated Press Stylebook, other stylebooks, and in-house style manuals for decades — has surely reinforced public carelessness with this word. Editors can, and should, rap the knuckles of writers who disregard such niceties, but Styrofoam may be well on its way toward joining kleenex and xerox and the other trade names that the public has transformed into generic words.


  1. Did Xerox lose its (tm)? They sure did fight it.

    Amusing, vaguely related item -- blogger from Xerox Corporation admonished in a comment about using "to FedEx":

  2. Sorry I'm late.

    Related to this, what's the scoop on "dumpster?" I've heard that some style guides mandate capitalization, as Dumpster is supposedly a trademark. I don't know who owns the trademark, but if you go to, Waste Management refers to lower case dumpsters throughout (except as