What do President Obama, controlling parents and a strict boss have in common? More than likely they’ve all been compared to Hitler. This sort of grotesque hyperbole, on a large
scale, leads to public outrage. On a lesser scale it goes practically undetected or swept away as nothing more than a misguided slur.
In America you would be hard pressed to find anyone unaware of the atrocities perpetrated by Hitler and Nazi Germany. The facts are prevalent and widely available in school texts, countless bestsellers, blockbuster movies and award-winning documentaries. Unfortunately, as decades pass, the specific context of Hitler's name, although still anathema, has been watered down through general overuse. Its proper noun status has lost propriety. In a way, the same can be said for "Xerox."
The Xerox Corporation did
such a bang-up job making copiers that the "Xerox" brand of machine
itself, became a generic word for photocopies made on any duplication device.
It’s the same with making that copy, now known as xeroxing. Once a protected
product name loses its distinction, it falls into the "Genericized
Trademark" category. This entails the company's product name getting stripped
of trademark rights and becoming word-property of the people. The former ties to origin are not entirely forgotten, but are
worldwide reputation as pure evil has resulted in his name becoming a basic
synonym for the word evil, which in turn is the main cause for the trivialized
usage of it commonly heard today. In essence, the public has made a xeroxed
Hitler. In that case, it stands to reason that each copy made of the original,
lessens the resolution, and guarantees a loss in detail.
Now, Hitler's name will
never be put on the same list as: aspirin, dry ice, escalator, yo-yo, zipper… all
formerly trademarked names. Clearly Hitler was not a thing, he was a human, yet
the correlation to his name as being a lost trademark is befitting. Truth is,
the English language has always been malleable, constantly evolving, for better
We can still get angry and blame a person's casual usage of "Hitler" on ignorance, laziness or anti-Semitism. But in numerous instances, using Hitler as a generic is merely a sloppy try at poetic license.