Posted by 17 February, 2008
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Kodak (photographic products and cameras and manufacturer) A trade name that is as well known internationally as Coca-Cola. The two names, in fact, appeared within two years of each other: Coca-Cola in 1886 and Kodak in 1888. Kodak as a name has no meaning: it is not intended to suggest any word (as ‘code’ or ‘compact’), nor does it derive from any word. It was invented by the American photographic pioneer, George Eastman, who patented it on 4 September 1888. Fortunately for posterity, Eastman has recorded the reasoning that prompted him to choose this particular name. He chose it, he says, “because I knew a trade name must be short, vigorous, incapable of being misspelled to an extent that would destroy its identity, and in order to satisfy trademark laws, it must mean nothing. The letter K has been a favourite with me-it seemed a strong, incisive sort of letter. Therefore, the work I wanted had to start with K. Then it became a question of trying out a great number of combinations of letters that made words starting and ending with K. The word Kodak is the result.’It has been pointed out that the name is additionally onomatopoeic-it suggests the clicking of a camera’s shutter. It may also be relevant that ‘K’ was first letter of Eastman’s mother’s family name. The name has sometimes been used generically in a number of languages for a camera. This prompted the Verband Deutscher Amateurphotographen Vereine (‘Joint Society of German Amateur Photographic Associations’) to issue the following warning (in German) in 1917: ‘Whoever speaks of a Kodak meaning only a photographic camera in general is not mindful of the fact that he is damaging the German industry in favour of the Anglo-American by widespread use of this word.’ George Eastman also invented the name of one of Kodak’s most popular cameras, the Brownie.

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