Meka and I went out to our gas station the other night. We frequent our local station almost every night to get a cheap Diet Pepsi and generally unwind for a few minutes before heading back home to study or do paperwork. This night was a little different because we actually got gas.
As I’m standing there watching the gas slowly fill my tank and the cost of the gas racing fast enough that it just reads as 8’s on everything but the dollars place value, I noticed a pile of bags next to the pumps. Like most gas stations, our station keeps a stash of various items next to the pumps, most of which I can’t imagine that you would buy while pumping gas: forty pound bags of mulch, peat moss. This time it was Pellens.
I looked at the sign: SALT PELLENS. It was bags of the stuff you put in your water softener. We buy it ourselves on a semi-regular basis (though usually not at the gas station). However, when we buy them, we call them salt pellets. So, there I am, pumping expensive gas into my car and feeling a tad smug about my spelling ability… that is until I looked at the actual bags.
I’m a big enough person to admit I might be incorrect about something. Perhaps I had a stroke and only thought the word was pellets. However, I asked Meka about it and she agreed: Pellens is a made up word. When I got home, I checked out Google and it even suggested, “Did you mean: salt pellets?”
After some finagling, I determined that Pellen is a product trademark of Morton Salt. A Pellen apparently softens your water and removes rust at the same time. Now, why couldn’t they just call this stuff “salt pellets with new rust remover”? The problem is everyone knows what a salt pellet is. It’s a term so commonly used that it has ceased to be a brand name and is now just used to describe any old clump of salt that will ultimately be dropped into a water softener. Morton Salt can’t trademark salt pellet, so they came up with a new word which has a silent ® at the end of it. Companies walk a fine line trying to spotlight a brand name, but keep it private enough so that it doesn’t become a general term.
In this particular case, I doubt Pellen® will be going the way of aspirin anytime soon.