Universal Brands and Their Verbified Counterparts

Published: 19th January 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th January 2015 01:48 AM   |  A+A-

In last week’s column I discussed the proliferation of verbed nouns and listed some examples. This week’s column focuses on the proliferation of brand verbification. Why are only some brand names verbified and others aren’t? Is it because a particular brand is popular? Or is it because there is no better alternative for the verb form of the word? Or is it because the brand name conveys the meaning better than any other word?

It is quite interesting to note that some brand names are used as verbs and one that is mostly used is xerox, though some puritans argue that a better term for xerox is photocopy. Xerox is an American multinational company that produces photocopiers and printers. Though I have always preferred photocopy to xerox and discouraged my students to go by my preference, after coming across numerous sentences in which ‘Xerox’ has been verbed, I am convinced that xerox can be used as a verb. Using xerox as a verb is common not only in India but in other parts of the world too. Here are some examples from the British National Corpus (

•  I’ll xerox it and pass it around if people are interested.

•  Beneath the letter was a xeroxed newspaper article listing all the bars in the city.

•  I scanned the xeroxed blurbs and reviews.

Almost every Internet user is familiar with Google and its verb form google. One may come across numerous examples of the verbified term:

• Let me google it for you.

• Why don’t you google it?

dr.jpgA few weeks ago, I sent the text message — You can google my name and access my profile — to a person who had asked for my profile. Ten minutes after I had sent the message, I received her reply: Sir, thank you very much. It was easily googleable. Googleable? It sounds nice, doesn’t it? If googleable is possible and acceptable, then ungoogleable is also possible. The term googleable means something that will yield a result when searched on the Google search engine and the term ungoogleable means something that will not yield a result. How does Google react to using Google as a verb? According to an Associated Press report, Google wants users to stop using the term as a verb for looking up anything on the Internet, unless they used the Google search engine.

The photo editing software Photoshop created in 1988 has become so popular that it is used not only by professional photographers and creative designers but also by amateur photographers. As a result, Photoshop has been verbified and the term has given birth to these terms: photoshopping and photoshop. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the transitive verb photoshop as “to alter (a digital image) with Photoshop software or other image-editing software especially in a way that distorts reality”.

Yahoo Inc tried its best to verbify ‘Yahoo’ and asked people “Do you Yahoo?” Somehow, it did not click. It still remains a noun.


A book containing a selection of Dr Rayan’s columns is available.


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