A tricky thing when you’re in foreign territory is asking for things you’re used to calling by brand name. The hard part is remembering the actual item name to be able to look it up or at least make a stab at a possible translation.
Kleenex is a bad example since the name is apparently synonymous with the thing (a facial tissue) in most Western countries. Q-tips was one I had trouble with until I had a brain wave and my total recall kicked in and I could see “cotton swab” written on the blue box in my mind’s eye. (In Spanish, Catalan and French, they’re known as “cotton sticks.”)
Given all this, I was pretty surprised when I learned that in French, the verb used to describe taping something or fastening one thing to another is scotcher, from Scotch Tape, one of the thousands of awesome products made by 3M.
Now, if you’re a Midwesterner, I expect you to know that 3M is a Minnesota-based company, but I’ll let you off the hook if you didn’t know that it was originally called the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. They are the people behind one of my favorite things on the planet, Thinsulate™, since I love nothing more than being perfectly the right temperature without the weight of wool. They’re also the geniuses who accidentally invented Post-it Notes, without which the world would be full of things forgotten, documents unintentionally unsigned and reminders unheeded.
This is the part of the story where I’d normally make some crack about how those Minnesotans were able to invent so many things because there is nothing else to do a) in the Midwest and b) that close to Canada, but I’m trying to be more gracious these days, so I’ll refrain.