Jewish World Review June 23, 2004 / 4 Tamuz, 5764

Jeff Elder

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Consumer Reports

Soda jerk! One chocolate brain freeze; Brands that become generic name for a product; more | Q: What is it exactly that makes your head hurt when drinking a cold beverage quickly? - Bill Munson, Charlotte, N.C.

A: Brain freeze!


Whew! That's better. For a minute or so, that pain between the eyes was excruciating.

Bill, this thankfully brief condition - often referred to as a brain freeze or ice cream headache - is caused when something very cold touches the center of your palate (also known as the roof of your mouth).

The cold food or drink sets off certain nerves that control how much blood flows to your head. The nerves say, "Hey, that's really cold! We need more blood to warm up!" And blood vessels in your head swell up with blood.

Now, the nerves in your palate are connected with other nerves throughout your head. Those other nerves feel all that blood rushing to your palate. That's a "brain freeze."

(Nothing is really happening in the brain. It's all in the blood vessels of the head.)

It usually lasts a minute or less, almost never lasts more than five minutes, and goes away on its own.

If you find yourself getting a brain freeze, hold your tongue against your palate. This will warm it up and stop the sensation.

Studies show brain freezes might be more common in people who suffer migraines. The two conditions might be similar in that the blood vessels cause the pounding. Many migraine sufferers report getting ice-cream headaches in the same place they get migraines.

The term "brain freeze" was registered in 1994 by 7-Eleven, the convenience store giant, "to communicate the painful joy of drinking a frozen Slurpee beverage."

Of course, you know what the ultimate brain freeze is: Cryonics.

Anybody else remember the joy of being served an old-fashioned milk shake at a real soda fountain? I loved the whole set-up. You weren't just handed a machine-made shake in a paper cup.

No, sir.

You took a spin on a counter stool. You watched creamy hunks of cool vanilla tumble into a tall metal cup. Squirt, squirt of chocolate syrup. Splash of whole milk. Shiny cup slapped onto a pastel blender the size of a small tractor.

Then you were presented with the whole ensemble of Official Milk Shake Equipment, each apparatus noble and important in its role: The frosty metal cup, the tall glass, the long-handled spoon and the paper-wrapped straw.

It tasted like happiness. THAT was worth a brain freeze.

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Q: What's it called when a brand becomes, over time, the generic name for a product (e.g., Band-Aid, Kleenex)? - Gary Broyhill, Taylorsville, N.C.

A: Gary, some people call these "proprietary eponyms."

I know: Not very catchy. They should really get a brand and a logo...

Did you know aspirin, escalator, yo-yo and even heroin were once trademarks? (Imagine the jingle for heroin.)

Registered product names can lose their legal protection if the owners fail to make active use of the trademarks, or fail to defend them against infringement. Courts can even rule that a trademarked term has become so successful in gaining "mind share" that it has become generic through common use.

That's why some companies and groups defend their trademark from generic use with such moxie (formerly a trademark for a soft drink). Band-Aid and Kleenex might be alarmed that you've suggested they are generic terms. They want "mind share," but as officially trademarked brands.

Band-Aid even changed its popular jingle "I am stuck on Band-Aid, `cause Band-Aid's stuck on me" to "I am stuck on Band-Aid BRAND, `cause Band-Aid's stuck on me."

Subtle, but it gets that trademark factor in there.

Last year the Supreme Court ruled the dreadful dance song "Barbie Girl" by Aqua did not infringe on Mattel's trademark of its enormously successful plastic doll.

The song included the lines:

I'm a Barbie girl, in my Barbie world

Life in plastic, it's fantastic

(Quality is not a requirement for First Amendment protection.)

The high court issued its decision without comment, letting stand a federal appeals court ruling. Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski had written:

"The problem arises when trademarks transcend their identifying purpose. Some trademarks enter our public discourse and become an integral part of our vocabulary. How else do you say that something's `the Rolls Royce of its class'? What else is a quick fix, but a Band-Aid? ... Once imbued with such expressive value, the trademark becomes a word in our language and assumes a role outside the bounds of trademark law."

This struggle, between what is trademarked and what is an "integral part of our vocabulary" can reach almost absurd levels. A Canadian company trademarked the name Parma for its ham in 1971. Problem: Parma is a real place, a city in Italy. (You might have also heard of the region's Parmesan cheese.)

For centuries, Parma has produced its distinctive and traditional Parma ham. That is what it has always been called. But Italy's Parma ham cannot be sold under that name in Canada. Some Italian exporters send it to Canada as "The Original Ham." (Why not get some real revenge, and export it as trademarked "Canadian Bacon"?)

The following products are all trademarked, but are sometimes used generically:

To write this column I've used Post-Its, Xeroxed research material and gone over it with a Hi-Liter.

I've put on Chap Stick, blown my nose on a Kleenex, and felt the need for a Valium.

I've drunk a Coke in a Styrofoam cup, taken my lunch from a Ziploc bag and Tupperware and shaken on a little Tabasco.

Tonight I'll go home, driving past a Laundromat (where they play Muzak) and a Jacuzzi dealership (with a Dumpster in the back).

My kids might be Rollerblading, undulating inside a Hula Hoop or playing Ping-Pong. Then they'll slurp Popsicles.

I'll probably step on a LEGO while giving the dogs Milk-Bones.

Could I be sued for using these trademarks so loosely? I'm not made of Teflon, or slick as Vaseline. A lawsuit could probably stick to me like Velcro.

Who knows? Get out the Ouija board.

You know Paul Bunyan, right? (Big fella, likes to cut down trees.) Sure, he's a classic of American folklore. But what's he doing in a column on trademarks?

That's what he was.

While there were already folktales about mighty lumberjacks in the northern woods, Paul Bunyan was fleshed out by adman William Laughead and his image was trademarked by the Red River Lumber Co. in 1921.



This time it's on 1969. Class, you may sniff the mimeograph sheet and begin.

1. What crowd-pleasing top 10 hit did the Foundations bop to in 1969?

2. What X-rated film won three Oscars in '69?

3. What doctor show won three Emmys in 1969-70?

4. What novelist, whose best book was published in 1980, killed himself in 1969?

5. What current hot-tempered baseball manager was the A.L. rookie of the year in 1969?



1. "Build Me Up Buttercup"

2. "Midnight Cowboy"

3. "Marcus Welby M.D."

4. John Kennedy Toole wrote "Confederacy of Dunces"

5. Lou Piniella

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Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here. If you send him a great question, he'll send you a Glad You Asked T-shirt.


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