Dinky/Matchbox toy

Discussion in 'English Only' started by mutagenix, Jul 31, 2012.

  1. mutagenix Junior Member

    Japanese
    Hi there

    What do you call the miniature toy cars (partially die-cast) used by children to play or as collectibles? I realise that in the past they were referred to as Dinky or Matchbox cars. Are these terms still in common use? To be more precise, I'd like to know what you personally call such automobiles in everyday speech.
     
  2. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    Dinky toys, like Matchbox toys, were those made under that particular brand.
    They were good toys, but of a different age. As far as I know, neither they nor similar toys are made now.

    From Wikipedia on Dinky toys:
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2012
  3. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    You forgot to answer the question, W;)

    I'm fairly sure I call them Dinky toys.
     
  4. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    Texas
    English - US
    Dinky cars were not sold in the US so that wouldn't help much (we would interpret "dinky" as in the Word Reference dictionary "2 N. Amer. disappointingly small; insignificant.") . Matchbox cars are still sold in the US. Note that it's a brand name, not really a type. It depends on how specific you want to be about small toy cars. If you want to specify those exactly the size of Matchbox cars, that's probably the best term in US English as they are the most famous company to make them in exactly that size.
     
  5. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    I had hoped that my use of the phrases 'Dinky toys' and 'Matchbox toys' would show that that is what I call them, while explaining that these are brand names and that the toys are no longer made.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2012
  6. Sparky Malarky Senior Member

    Indiana
    English - US
    I'm pretty sure Matchbox cars are still being made. I think that Matchbox has become so common in use that many people refer to small toy cars as matchbox cars, whether or not they are. I doubt if that makes Mattel happy. It's like facial tissue. Most people call any tissue a "kleenex" even if it's not Kleenex brand. This definitely annoys Kimberly-Clark.

    If you are going to refer to these cars in print, I suggest you call them miniature toy cars.
     
  7. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Matchbox cars are still made - I just bought some last Christmas, in fact.

    I must disagree with Sparky about "miniature toy cars." That phrase might imply cars that are even smaller than Matchbox cars, and I don't think you want to do that. I agree, though, that "Matchbox" is what's used in common speech in the U.S. to refer to all toy cars of this size, even if there are made by another company, and it sounds as though "Dinky" is used in the U.K.

    There's nothing wrong with using name brands so long as you cap them, as you've done here. I agree with Myridon that "dinky" has a specific and somewhat negative meaning in the U.S., but so long as the word is written "Dinky" with a capital D, it would be clear to me and I think most people that it's a name brand, even though it's not a brand I'm familiar with.

    So I'd recommend "Dinky or Matchbox cars" or something like that. If you needed to get really precise, you could mention the scale, which is 1:64, I believe, but really doubt that would convey much to most people. It wouldn't to me, that's for sure.
     
  8. mutagenix Junior Member

    Japanese
    This is exactly what I needed. Thanks a bunch, guys :)
     
  9. pwmeek

    pwmeek Senior Member

    SE Michigan, USA
    English - American
    They are miniature die-cast toy vehicles. We call them simply "toy cars". If you use Dinky™ or Matchbox™, you are using a manufacturer's trademarked name, even if you do not intend to.

    It is as incorrect as calling automobiles as a class, "Fords" or "Hondas".
     
  10. papakapp Senior Member

    English - NW US

    Not quite. It's more like Frisbee, Q-tip, Band-aid, Xerox, Play-Dough or Kleenex. These are all brand names that are in common use as their generic counterparts. (Like Matchbox)

    But if it's a problem then just call them matchbox cars. I think as long as you don't capitalize it then that would quite adequately describe any car that you can fit in a matchbox.
     
  11. pwmeek

    pwmeek Senior Member

    SE Michigan, USA
    English - American
    If you use any of those brand names anywhere in public (WR is publicly searchable) as generic names, you will hear from the lawyers of those companies, if/when they become aware of it. I know this from personal experience (Kevlar). Large companies have people whose job is to trawl the web, looking for people who mis-use or otherwise dilute the value of their trademarks and brand names. The Web is huge, so it may not happen soon, but they are out there looking.

    I would think that asserting those brand names to be generic here at WordReference would have the effect of putting WordReference at risk; if nothing else, at risk of some legal harassment.

    WR tries hard to avoid harassment by copyright lawyers (insisting on source and limiting the number of sentences quoted); I suspect that trademark lawyers are much the same.
     
  12. papakapp Senior Member

    English - NW US
    I agree with this. But it seems important, for the benefit of the non-native speakers that read these boards to point out that phrases like "cotton tipped swab" "flying disk" and children's modeling clay" are clumsy, prolix and they are almost never used except in those those comparatively rare situations where a person would otherwise be risking a lawsuit if they used the common, proprietary terminology.

    The simple rule would be that we tend to use the generic term unless:
    1) the generic term contains at least 50% more syllables than the brand name
    or
    2) The brand name has had over 90% of the given market when the term came into common use.

    The actual percentages could be a little off, but that seems like a good place to start until somebody does a formal study. Maybe somebody wants to jump on Bing or Yahoo so they can google that for me ;)
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2012
  13. pwmeek

    pwmeek Senior Member

    SE Michigan, USA
    English - American
    Certainly. It is also for the benefit of English learners that, while we can tell them how these brand names are sometimes used as generic terms (so that the learner can interpret them), we also must warn them that using them (as opposed to understanding them) is an action subject to prosecution. We should certainly not recommend that they use them without also warning them.

    We might use them in casual speech, but we are (or should be) reluctant to commit them to writing that might be discovered by the owners. We live in an age where most of what we write (type) is public, or potentially so. Anything posted in a forum, posted to a blog, sent by email, or stored "in the Cloud" is either searchable now or may become so art the whim of the government. I, personally, produce at least twenty times as many "searchable" words as private ones. Making a special exception for the few private (for the time being) words I produce seems silly.

    The name of the generic product may be longer (it was usually forced to be longer by the major brand name owners), but not impossibly longer: 1:43 scale cars, die-cast cars, or simply toy cars if the size is unimportant. If you have one in your hand or can point at one, "disk" and "swab" are even shorter than Frisbee™ and Q-tip™ and are completely unambiguous.
     
  14. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    It's possible to be respectful of trademarks while still using the terms we're familiar with. All you have to do is capitalize them: Matchbox cars, Dinky cars, Lionel trains, Barbies, Play-Doh, etc. You don't have to use the "TM" mark, you don't have to do anything elaborate, you just cap them.

    And sometimes that really is the best way. Sometimes referencing a widely known name brand is the best way to describe something.

    There's nothing wrong with that so long as you cap the name brands so that it's clear you aren't using them generically. I have received warning letters from corporate law departments when I've inadvertently used trademarked names (Kitty Litter and Styrofoam, if you're interested - I had until that moment not the faintest idea that Kitty Litter was trademarked), but that was because I used them generically. I've never gotten such a letter when I cap the word and use it properly.
     
  15. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
  16. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    Texas
    English - US
    Take note that Matchbox, Mattel, and Dinky are not among those names. ;) Real toys meant to be played with by real girls and boys are often collected by collectors but the girls and boys and their parents don't them collectibles.
     
  17. mutagenix Junior Member

    Japanese
    Using brand names for generic products is a linguistic phenomenon not exclusive to English. I've observed it in other languages I've studied. For instance, in Polish, which is my native tongue, adidas (not capitalized) is used to refer to a regular sneaker (the more common plural form would have an inflection - adidasy). Pampers is another example - most people will use it when talking about nappies/diapers (seldom do you hear the proper original Polish word). The general public don't care about the propriety rights or they are not even aware that they might (in certain contexts) be breaking the law. This applies in general to people all over the world, native English speakers included. People want to communicate effectively, which means they will use shorter and more recognisable forms. Granted, the issue of copyright infringement is more sensitive in the US due to the specificity of the legislation there (and culture) but it doesn't change the fact the you see/hear words like Frisbee, Xerox, Kleenex, etc. every day in American TV shows, movies and books. I've heard many a time my American friends use the aforementioned words in conversation. The application of such lexical items in formal settings is a different kettle of fish - academics, business people and the like should apply the vocabulary with caution, no doubt about that. However, saying that you should dread legal sanctions just because you've said or written matchbox car or dinky when referring to a generic product in day-to-day conversation or on an Internet forum where people exchange their thoughts is quite an overstatement, don't you think?
     
  18. pwmeek

    pwmeek Senior Member

    SE Michigan, USA
    English - American


    I mentioned this (as a response to the original poster, who was looking for a generic term to use) since the Internet was precisely where I once used such a term and was threatened with legal sanctions. The trademark owner felt it was worth paying an expensive lawyer to spend enough time to compose a heavily personalized letter, research my actual mailing address (not directly available from the site where the infraction occurred - it would have taken a court order), and print and post the letter to me. If I know lawyers, that must have cost that owner several hundred dollars (maybe a thousand in today's dollars). I apologized, corrected the text, and received another letter thanking me for my cooperation. Since then, I have been very careful.
     
  19. Sparky Malarky Senior Member

    Indiana
    English - US
    Another point, which I don't think has been made, is that you must be careful if you're offering something for sale. What if you inherit Uncle Barney's collection? You advertise (online, or in your local paper, or even just on a flier tacked up somewhere) that you're selling "matchbox cars," and if someone buys them and finds they're not Matchbox cars but some other brand, you have committed fraud. Are you going to prison? Unlikely, but the buyer is in the right to demand his money back, and if much money was involved he could have the basis for a law suit. Genuine Matchbox cars are very collectible, and some are worth hundreds of dollars.
     
  20. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I believe your distinction between matchbox and Matchbox could be used as a reasonable defence in such a case. If someone offered Matchbox for sale and provided matchbox, then there's more of a case :)

    Perhaps WRF isn't the only place where appropriate capitalization is important !
     

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