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From Altoids to Zima
by Evan Morris
Book Review by Amy Coffin
What does BMW stand for?

Grape Nuts have neither grapes nor nuts. What gives?

How did Lifesavers get their name?

If questions like these keep you up at night, Evan Morris has the answers. The man who brought us the Word Detective book and column now traces the origins of 125 well-known products and labels in From Altoids to Zima: The Surprising Stories Behind 125 Famous Brand Names.

This is an entertaining little 200-page book designed for simple trivia instead of deep research. Products are groups into five category sections: (1) Food and Drink, (2) Clothing, (3) Technology, Toys and Assorted Bright Ideas, (4) Cars and (5) Drugs and Cosmetics. All of the items common in any household including Dr Pepper, Jeep and Velcro.

The sections are separated by further fascinating reading that discusses good products with bad names, common myths and urban legends.

I have several favorite random facts in From Altoids to Zima. Did you know that Bayer AG trademarked "heroin" in 1910? That President Teddy Roosevelt first proclaimed Maxwell House coffee "good to the last drop?" Or that the first Barbies were modeled after a German prostitute doll? Now you do.

From Altoids to Zima is a fun, fast read. It’s great for curious pop-culture aficionados, trivia buffs or those who have a Cliff Clavin complex. Makes a great vacation book or a gift for those hard-to-buy-for people who hate to read.


The Word Detective

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