Why is it called ‘Tipp-Ex’?

The correction fluid known as ‘Tipp-Ex’ was developed in 1965 by the company of the same name (now Tipp-Ex GmbH & Co. KG). However, the name itself is actually a general name for all the companies correction products. This is not because they are named after the original correction fluid (as you’d imagine), but because of the meaning of tipp-ex itself. ‘Tippen’ is the German word for ‘to type’, whereas ‘ex’ is the Latin word for ‘no more’. Also the ‘Tipp-Ex’ fluid was created six years after the company created it’s original correction paper so, if anything, their products are named after the paper.

It is commonly thought that ‘Tipp-Ex’ was invented by Bette Nesmith Graham, the mother of Monkees member Michael Nesmith. However, it would appear that Bette actually invented something which is now commonly known as ‘Liquid Paper’. In the late forties Bette was a single mother. She had wanted to be an artist but ended up working as a secretary at a bank, where she would often earn extra money by painting the bank’s windows for the holidays. Bette wasn’t a great typist and the new electric typewriters generally made it harder to make corrections. Drawing on her experience as an artist, who would ‘paint out’ a mistake, she would mix up small bottles of white tempera paint, which she would then use to make corrections to her typing. In 1956, after a few years of development, she began marketing the paint as ‘Mistake Out’, and selling it to her workmates. She eventually renamed it ‘Liquid Paper’. She sold the company to Gillette in 1979, a year before her death at the age of 56.

(So, Bette didn’t invent the European brand ‘Tipp-Ex’, but she invented something similar. And, damnnit, her story is just so much better.)

*Update 31st January 2013

So far I have been unable to find out who invented actual ‘Tipp-Ex’, if you google the subject the internet usually assumes you are using ‘Tipp-Ex’ in the general sense and points you towards Bette. Or you are led to pages where people do actually state as fact that Bette invented the European ‘Tipp-Ex’. Being at a loss and thinking that the story of ‘Tipp-Ex’ might be as good as Bette’s I went looking for the manufacturer’s website. Turns out that the Tipp-Ex company is now owned by Bic, and they don’t really keep that kind of (interesting historical) information on their website. But, oddly enough, I discovered that Bic also sells a correction fluid named ‘Wite-Out’. This was invented in 1966 (in the US) by George Kloosterhouse (great name), a clerk in an insurance company, who created a correction fluid which could be used on photocopies (as normal correction fluid smudged the toner ink).

So, in summation, ‘Tipp-Ex’ was created by the German company of the same name, the company is now owned by Bic, and ‘Tipp-Ex’ is mainly sold in Europe. ‘Liquid Paper’ was invented by Bette Nesmith Graham in the US, is now owned by Gillette, and is primarily sold in the states. And ‘Wite-Out’ is a correction fluid used for photocopies, was created by George Kloosterhouse, and is now under the ownership of Bic (but I’m guessing it’s sold across the markets). But I imagine ‘Wite-Out’ doesn’t sell as well as the other products. Because although I imagine this correction fluid would come in handy for one or two photocopies (if you want to save money on paper), many photocopying jobs are 20+ pages. And I imagine what would actually happen would be that you would notice the mistake, bash your head against the photocopier a couple of times and then throw the papers in the bin before you even thought about correction fluid. Also, aren’t lots of photocopies done for best? Like for a final document? Or a brochure? Who wants correction fluid on that?

…and I still don’t know who invented ‘Tipp-Ex’.

[carried over from ‘anyadditionalinformation’ wordpress blog]

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