What’s a nurdle? Well, Colgate and Glaxo are sparring over the word

July 29, 2010

nurdle1To paraphrase William Shakespeare, would a nurdle by any other name still be a nurdle? 

For those who don’t know, a nurdle — a wave-like gob of toothpaste applied on a toothbrush —  is at the center of a trademark lawsuit filed by consumer product company Colgate-Palmolive against rival GlaxoSmithKline.

Colgate sued Glaxo, which owns the Aquafresh brand, seeking a court order that its packaging for Colgate toothpaste does not infringe trademarks held by Glaxo, which had filed a trademark application for the nurdle design.

Glaxo loves the word so much that it even created Nurdle World, the home of Milky, Lilly and Billy (pictured above). To wit: “Nurdle World helps children (and parents) understand more about healthy gums, strong teeth and fresh breath, while having fun,” the company said on the web site.

However, nurdle is a many-splendored thing. According to Wikipedia, a nurdle is scrap created from pellets used during the manufacturing of plastic products and also a major source of ocean and beach pollution.

Meanwhile, the Double-Tongued Dictionary web site said the use of the word ‘nurdle’ to describe the amount of toothpaste one should put on a toothbrush was probably popularized by the American Dental Association. (Man, I need to find some random trade group to popularize a word I will create!)
“A nurdle is also a play in the game of tiddlywinks and a type of batting in cricket. There are also, apparently, at least two ridiculous British games called nurdling, both which can only be explained after beers,” the Double-Tongued Dictionary added.

At least now I know what to tell my kids to clean up after brushing their teeth.

(Nurdles image from Aquafresh web site)

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