Friday Fact: The Q-Tip

Have you ever noticed on your box of q-tips the warning on the label, "FOR PETE'S SAKE, DON'T STICK THESE IN YOUR EARS!"

I always snort when I see that warning label, because we all know that's exactly what q-tips were invented for, right?

When I was headed to bed last night in the wee hours of the morning (after the kids were in bed, there was laundry to fold, Lego's to sort into Billy' brand new organizing bins, and Harry Potter 7 part 1 to watch), I noticed my phone flashing a friendly pink light, saying, "Hey! Hey, there, Stepper! Remember me? Your phone? I know our relationship is volatile, but - and please don't be angry with me - you have received a text."

It was from Risch.

"V was wondering how Q-tips got their name since they don't look like a Q. Sounds like a good Friday Fact to me."

I laughed, shared the message with Bill who grinned, and then went to go brush my teeth. Sounded like the perfect thing to come out of my bloggy-absence with. Q-tips.

I planned to do some research in the morning, but as I went about my bed-prep business, I became more and more intrigued. Why did they call them Q-tips? If not for ears - what are they for?

And so I stayed up waaaaay too late learning all sorts of fascinating facts about that little toiletry icon.  I bring you today's FRIDAY FACT: THE Q-TIP!(tip, tip, tip)

(Hey, V! This one's for you!)

It all started in 1923, when Leo Gerstenzang saw his wife sticking wads of cotton to toothpicks.

This is how I imagine it went down:

Leo: Honey? Listen - I know it's meatloaf night, but some of the fellas are getting together for a game of Poker, and I wondered if I might - hang on, what are you doing?

Wife: (pushing her feathered boa out of the way in frustration) What does it look like I'm doing?

Leo: It looks like you're trying to stick those wads of cotton to those toothpicks.

Wife: Well, that's what I'm doing.

Leo: What on earth for?!

Wife: I have an inner ear-canal itch that is driving me BATTY!

Leo: So?

Wife: Well, I'm not about to stick a TOOTHPICK into my ear, am I?

Leo: (restraining a laugh) Well, carry on, then. So listen, about Poker - hang on!

Wife: What is it now?

Leo: I've just had an idea. Wife, you're BRILLIANT!

Wife: NOW he realizes.

And that (not historically accurate banter) is how the idea was born.

The correct term for a Q-tip is "cotton swab". Just ask any manufacturer of the cotton swab who *isn't* affiliated with the Q-tip brand. They're swabs, see?

Kinda like how a Kleenex is really a tissue.

But if you ask someone to pass you a kleenex, they know what you mean. And when your significant other says, "dear, we seem to be out of Q-tips", you know what they are referring to.

That's what I call effective branding! But that's another post.

But the Q-tip didn't begin as such. Originally, Leo called his little invention Baby Gays. Then he got smarter and called them Baby Gays  Q-Tips. Then he really wised up and called them simply Q-tips.

They instantly took off - everyone needed these little 100% cotton beauties! And soon Q-tip became a household name. Ads boasted that they were 'so useful to have around the house' - and for such a variety of reasons! Clean pets ears, eyes, paws! Clean hard-to-reach places in the house! apply antibiotic ointments directly to little cuts and scrapes! Make-up applicator! Tiny paint-brush! A craft-room staple!

And the Q?

The Q stands quite simply for Quality.


Tamsin said...

In England they are called cotton buds. :)

Also, yay! You're back!

MikkSolo said...

Perfect. Thanks for the great info! V and I got a good chuckle out of this one. She just got her ears pierced so she may be using the little Q's on a regular basis for the next 6 weeks.


Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

You're a genius. :)

Kim said...

Great post! I've always wondered, but never wondered enough to do research on it and find out. Now I know!

That Girl said...

I knew that! I actually knew that!

I feel disproportionately proud.

(I've missed you!)