Backformation of the day (with bonus trademark-law speculation)

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EmbroidMe is the world's largest promotional products franchise. We help organizations create an impact through customized marketing solutions that bear a name, image, brand identity, logo or message. Our specialties are embroidery, garment printing, custom apparel, promotional products, screen printing and personalized gifts at more than 300 resource centers throughout the United States, Canada and Australia.

OED on the etymology of embroider:

In 15th cent. broudre , brouder , taken as the equivalent of French brode-r, brouder; ‘to stitch, embroider’ (of which the regular English repr. was broude , browd v.). It is not clear whether the terminal -er represents the French infinitive (as in render , tender , etc.), or had some other origin. The typical forms during the 16th cent. were browder and broder ; broider (except as implied in broiderer n. q.v.) is found only later; its oi is evidently due to the association with broid v. ‘to braid’, so common in the 16th cent.

The credit (or blame) for this particular backformation may well go to EmbroidMe's trademark  lawyers, who might have thought that the morphologically more accurate EmbroiderMe wouldn't have been distinctive enough:

Trademark distinctiveness is an important concept in the law governing trademarks and service marks. A trademark may be eligible for registration, or registrable, if it performs the essential trademark function, and has distinctive character. Registrability can be understood as a continuum, with "inherently distinctive" marks at one end, "generic" and "descriptive" marks with no distinctive character at the other end, and "suggestive" and "arbitrary" marks lying between these two points. "Descriptive" marks must acquire distinctiveness through secondary meaning—consumers have come to recognize the mark as a source indicator— to be protectable. [Wikipedia]

Although I'm hardly a trademark expert, it seems pretty clear that EmbroidMe is more likely than EmbroiderMe to be seen as suggestive rather than descriptive.

But whether or not I'm right about that, I shudder to think what might ensue if EmbroidMe (the company) were to be acquired by this outfit.



  1. maidhc said,

    May 1, 2018 @ 3:28 am

    There's a pretty well-established dialect pronunciation of "embroider" as "embroidree".

    Consider Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show's "Cover of the Rolling Stone":
    I've got a freaky old lady name of Cocaine Katie
    Who embroidrees on my jeans
    I've got my poor old grey-haired daddy
    Driving my limousine.

    (Composed by Shel Silverstein)

  2. Rodger C said,

    May 1, 2018 @ 7:00 am

    That's no doubt a verb "to embroidery." A front-formation? Fore-formation?

  3. David L said,

    May 1, 2018 @ 8:42 am

    "Embroider" also has a negative connotation, in the sense of making up fanciful details when telling a story, that might have been seen as inappropriate for this company.

  4. Michèle Sharik said,

    May 1, 2018 @ 1:10 pm

    *blink, blink* I just came back from a trip down the Rabbit Hole of Wikipedia. I had absolutely no idea that Shel Silverstein wrote that song — or even that he had written any songs, much less the ones listed over at wiki, most of which I remember from growing up in the 70s!! I guess I can go back to bed now that I’ve learned something fascinating today. ;-)

  5. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 1, 2018 @ 3:23 pm

    Youtube has reasonably good-quality clips of Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show performing various numbers on Shel Silverstein's houseboat in Sausalito circa 1972, plus one of Silverstein himself introducing the band. If you use "shel's houseboat" in your search terms they will turn up.

  6. AG said,

    May 1, 2018 @ 5:51 pm

    Yep, I also wonder if the people who named this pronounce "embroidery" as "embroydree", in which case switching the last syllable with "me" probably seemed like a stroke of genius.

  7. AG said,

    May 1, 2018 @ 6:05 pm

    …of course, this works only because "embroid-" is so instantly recognizable. It would get much more confusing f these people started paper-product or camel-renting spinoffs called StationMe or DromedMe

  8. maidhc said,

    May 2, 2018 @ 3:18 am

    I've known people who say "embroidree", so it's a live usage.

  9. Thomas Rees said,

    May 2, 2018 @ 8:49 am

    Surely the pronunciation with optional elision /ɪmˈbrɔɪd(ə)ri/ is standard.

  10. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 2, 2018 @ 11:11 am

    Is there a risk of people reacting with "Don't Embroid Me, Bro"? Or is that a snowclone that's already come and gone?

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