Correct nomenclature

Alex Shigo used to make a point of emphasizing the importance of giving things their correct names. To me this makes a lot of sense, after all, if we are all attempting to say the same thing, yet are giving it a different name, communication becomes a very fickle matter.

There is a sub-theme to this topic, which is brand names that have become generic names for every day objects. We use these names frequently, oftentimes not even realizing that it is a brand name we are employing.


Hoover, Sellotape… or Duck tape if you are in the US, Stanley knives, Bubble Wrap, Velcro, Post-it, Breathalyzer, Kleenex, Pingpong (yes! Ping Pong was trademarked in 1901 as a brand of table tennis products named for the sound the ball makes when it hits the table), Q-tips, Rollerblades, Sharpie, Tupperware, Onesies, Dumpster, Plexiglas, Windbreaker… and so the list goes on.

In our small arborist world we have similar pitfalls when we are attempting to describe a generic item, yet using a brand name to describe it. An example? Kevlar is the registered trademark for a para-aramid synthetic fiber, regiestered by DuPont in 1965. Oftentimes the fibre we are actually describing is an Aramid (the group of fires that Kevlar belongs to), yet in actual fact is not Kevlar but a fibre made by some other manufacturer, Technora for instance. So whilst that heat resistant fibre in your friction hitch cord is certainly an Aramid, it may – or may not – be Kevlar.

Dyneema is a further example for this generic mis-naming. It is a trademark registered to DSM, a Netherlands-based chemical company. Often times when we refer to something as being Dyneema we  are actually talking about HMPE, high-modulus polyethylene, which again may or may not be DSM’s Dyneema. As nowadays a lot of non-branded HMPE comes out of China, maybe we should be referring to it as Chineema? No. Joke.

So, in the future – even more so after having written this – I am going to make an effort to differentiate , to be more specific about what exactly I am referring to.

So here goes nothing… in order not to forget this, I think I had better write myself a reminder on a Post-it. Gah! No, I mean on a coloured rectangle of paper with a weak adhesive strip on the upper edge which allows it to be removed. I will write it with a Sharpie. Duh, with a pen-style permanent marker. Geddit?

This might turn out to be harder than I thought…