LINGUIST List 7.442

Sat Mar 23 1996

Sum: Trade Names

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Andreas Westerhoff, Sum: Trade Names 7.321

Message 1: Sum: Trade Names 7.321

Date: Fri, 22 Mar 1996 18:41:11 +0100
From: Andreas Westerhoff <>
Subject: Sum: Trade Names 7.321
Many thanks for the contributions I received regarding vol-7-321 from:
James Kirchner; Kawagashira Nobuyuki; Hartmut Haberland; Stavros Macrakis;
Peter Daniels; Tim Nau; Waruno Mahdi; X.X.; Willy Van Langendonck
The query:
Tradenames/Trademarks are a very special kind of words. Most authors
classify them as proper names, proper nouns or as common nouns. But there is
a minority calling tradenames adjectives. ...

I quote two rather typical statements:
"Finally, trademarks have in common with adjectives the fact that they are
very often employed as such, or at least in a parallel position, c.f. 'SHELL
oil' and 'thick (or good, etc.) oil'. Others are already adjectives in
themselves: LIGHT AND BRIGHT." (Werkman, Caspar J.: Trademarks.Their
Creation, Psychology and Perception. Amsterdam 1974 p. 4)
Legal advisors like to classify them as adjectives:
Trademarks should always be used as adjectives, never as nouns, e.g.:
Proper use	Get into Wrangler jeans now!
Improper use	Get into Wranglers now!
(Graham and Peroff in Murphy, John M. :Branding: A key marketing tool
Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire and London 1987 p.45 f.)

The idea of calling tradenames adjectives as in the quotations above was
generally rejected, but the discussion showed, that trade names and
adjectives share certain functions. Semantically, the part _Wrangler_ in
_Wranglers jeans_ specifies the noun _jeans_.

"I don't agree with the classification of "SHELL" in "SHELL oil" as
adjective. It is a noun, just as "olive" in "olive oil", and quite
distinct from "thick" in "thick oil"
 (1) "this oil is thick"
 *"this oil is olive"
 *"this oil is SHELL"
 (2) *"this oil is produced from/by thick"
 "this oil is produced from olives"
 "this oil is produced by SHELL"=84 (Waruno Mahdi)

Trade names in examples like SHELL oil or WRANGLERS jeans were classified as
nouns used attributively, trade name in apposition, or as non-possesive
(qualitative) attribute.
Some contributions called such combinations of proprial and generical lexeme
a compound or compound noun. Regarding the position in the sentence, I
certainly agree. But there seems to be a difference in the way of reference:
unlike compound nouns consisting only of generic nouns like _door bell_
you can refer to the same thing by using just one part of the compound.
> Get into Wrangler jeans now!
>Get into Wranglers now!

Willy Van Langedonck summarized the different functions of trade names:

"However, we should make a preliminary distinction between a
lexeme and the function it can assume, e.g. 'London' is a prototypical
proprial lexeme, so it functions primarily as a proper name, but secondarily
as a common noun, as in: 'She meant a different London', or as a modifier
(which you call adjective), as in: 'He went into a London shop'. The same
goes for trade/brand names. A prototypical proprial lexeme such as
can take on 5 functions at least:
1) personal proper name: 'Mercedes founded a car company';
2) trade (company) proper name: 'Mercedes builds cars';
3) brand (proper) name: 'Mercedes is a chic brand';
4) common noun: 'I bought a Mercedes';
5) modifier (attributive, adjective): 'I bought a Mercedes car'.
... All the functions of the lexemes are linked by metonymy. That's my

Very similar Waruno Mahdi:
I personally would nevertheless not
object to a sentence like "Let me get into my Wranglers", but this
involves metonymy in the noun WRANGLERS from originally denoting the brand
to signifying a product of that brand.

Gender of trade names
I received a couple of e-mails with examples from French. Regarding gender,
the situation in French is similar to the situation in German:

As to the choice of the masculine or feminine article, I believe in most
Latin-derived languages it is governed by the gender of the generic noun
rather than the tradename in apposition. Thus, in French, one would always
find "La" before a company name in which the word "societe" or compagnie" is
used or understood. Similarly, there is a hotel in Montreal called "Le Queen
Elizabeth" because, although the actual queen is a female, the (understood)
word "hotel", is masculine.=93 (Tim Nau)

The gender of tradenames is the gender of the item, not that of the=
(Stavros Macrakis)

One of the ideas behind my query was to get a better insight into the nature
of the relation of trade name and generic name or noun. The contributions
were very helpfull, but they also rose new questions or brought up very old
ones. If we explain the functions of the proprial lexemes as linked by
metonymy, we must assume =84meaning=93 for those lexemes. This leads back to=
question about the meaning of names.

Many thanks!
Andreas Westerhoff
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