10 best company nicknames

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Ever ask a friend to join you at Mickey D's for lunch? Unless your dining companion lives under a rock, we're pretty sure he knew you were referring to fast food giant McDonald's. It seems American consumers have a knack for creating their own "terms of endearment" for the companies they patronize and the products they purchase.

Of course, consumer-given monikers are not always complimentary (Taco Hell, anyone?), but whether positive, negative or neutral, an apt company or product nickname can take on a life of its own. Take for instance Trader Joe's best-selling Charles Shaw wine. More people know the wine by its nickname ("Two-Buck Chuck") than they do its actual brand name.

Pet names can even become part of our cultural fabric and foster an emotional connection. General Motors should have considered this before they made the unbelievable decision to try and snuff out the use of one of the world's best-known, longest-lived product nicknames: Chevy. The company quickly back-pedaled in response to the not-surprising public outcry.

Setting aside Two-Buck Chuck, Chevy and many other fun product nicknames (Can you say Crackberry?) for the time being, here is WalletPop's list of the 10 best company nicknames out there today:

TARGET
Popular Nickname: Tar-zhay
Did You Know? In a Washington Post article from 2006, staff writer Yian Q. Mui wrote, "Fans of Target stores long ago nicknamed the retailer 'Tar-zhay' for its cheap and chic clothes, the French accent lending the discounter a certain je ne sais quoi that made it acceptable among fashionistas."

WALMART
Popular Nickname: Wally World
Did You Know? The term "Wally World" comes from a fictional amusement park in the 1983 comedy film National Lampoon's Vacation. The sheer size and "everything under the sun" mentality of the park set the stage for the Walmart store name to be altered to "Wally World" soon thereafter. A parking lot depicted in the film also resembles a cement desert without end.

STARBUCKS
Popular Nickname: Four Bucks
Did You Know? By the late 1990s, Starbucks was everywhere and "Four Bucks" became one of the favorite nicknames (along with the more insulting "Starsucks" and, well, you know). As a trend marketing specialist said in a USA Today article, "We live in a society where people think $5 is $1 because of Starbucks."

MICROSOFT
Popular Nickname: Mister Softee
Did You Know? The nickname Mister Softee comes from Microsoft's stock symbol: MSFT. As you see, it has some of the same letters as the beloved soft ice cream vendor, Mister Softee. And so, a bit of Wall Street slang was born.



APPLEBEE'S
Popular Nickname: Crapplebee's
Did You Know? One WalletPop editor said: I first heard the nickname "Crapplebee's" from my brother, when I suggested that we go to dinner at Applebee's and he didn't think it was such a good idea. I don't know that it's "crappy" per se; it's more that there's nothing especially unique about it. It's very similar to Chili's, T.G.I. Friday's, Ruby Tuesday's, and a whole bunch of other fast-casual chains with an "apostrophe s" in their names.

DISNEY
Popular Nickname: Mouse House
Did You Know? Anyone who has ever wondered about the term "Mouse House" need only consult the Slanguage Dictionary of the show business bible Variety, which defines it this way: "the Walt Disney Co. or any division thereof, a reference to the company's most famous animated character, Mickey Mouse." Variety also refers to Walt Disney Co. simply as the "Mouse."

WHOLE FOODS
Popular Nickname: Whole Paycheck
Did You Know? Not surprisingly, the company is chagrined about its pricey moniker, especially in an atmosphere of rising food costs and growing discontent among consumers. In a New York Times article, co-president Walter Robb was once quoted as saying, "I'm getting a little tired of that tag around our neck. We are a lot more competitive than people give us credit for. We challenge anyone on like items."

UPS
Popular Nickname: Big Brown
Did You Know? The simplicity of a brand name or symbol confers status on a company. Decades ago, the symbol might literally have been a stock symbol: the oldest companies got one letter ticker symbols from the New York Stock Exchange. United Parcel Service now gets that status by taking an entire color: brown. The company first started using its trademark brown trucks in the 1920s when it delivered appliances and other goods for department stores. UPS has embraced its brown branding, and even asks in its advertising, "What can Brown do for you?"

NEIMAN MARCUS

Popular Nickname: Needless Markup
Did You Know? It may be the most successful upscale retail department chain that shoppers love to hold a grudge against. The chain caters to primarily upper-income females and features designer lines that rival boutique (and beyond) price levels. Further, while some of the products are decidedly exclusive, some are not or appear to not be, but the prices of these items remain in the stratosphere -- and it is for this reason that the store was tagged with this nickname.

TACO BELL
Popular Nicknames: Taco Hell; Toxic Bell; Taco Smell
Did You Know? One editor puts it this way: When I hear my friends use the term, it is always in the context of "Want to grab some lunch at Taco Hell?" The nickname implies acceptance that the food quality will be less than gourmet, but a cost worth the concession.

Did we miss one of your favorite company nicknames? Tell us in our comments section below or on our message board.
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