Taking care of business; more name origins

As a professional resume writer for twenty years I’ve interviewed dozens of Xerox employees, from production workers to vice presidents. I always like to ask them, “Do you know where the name of your company comes from?” To date, no one has known. So I delight in providing them with the answer, opening opportunities for them to wax intelligent at future cocktail parties or on stuck elevators. Xerox comes from the Greek xero, which means “dry.” This was Xerox’s market niche when, in 1959, they created the world’s first dry photocopying process. There was already other photocopying technology in existence, including Kodak’s Verifax process, but that produced wet copies that were costlier and more cumbersome.

Speaking of Kodak, George Eastman and his mother used Anagram game tiles to come up with that name. Hence, Eastman Kodak. George liked “kodak” because it was short, and couldn’t be mispronounced or mistaken for any another company.

Minnesota-based Land O’ Lakes dairy products company, now owned by 8300 farmers and cooperatives, gleaned its name from a contest they ran in 1924. Minnesota’s state mottoby the way, was and is “Land of 10,000 lakes.”

HSBC represents to me an irony. The acronymn is for Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. Hmmm…does “Shanghai” ring bell? Type in the word shanghai on your computer. Notice that spell check accepts it without the capital S. That’s because lower case shanghai is a verb; it means “kidnapping through trickery.” And it comes from the very same Shanghai of bankdom, where they once tricked innocent Chinese into shipboard slavery. Shanghai; an interesting name for the biggest bank in the world.


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One Comment on “Taking care of business; more name origins”

  1. ClaudesMom Says:

    If you were an unfortunate soul in Barbary Coast in San Francisco or a dockside bar in Seattle you might have met “new” friends who got you very drunk. When you woke up you were found you were part of a crew headed for — Shanghai.

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