Many companies are so heavily associated with some of their more famous products that they are actually confused with them.
Many people incorrectly refereed to Apple Inc. as "Macintosh" or "Mac". A lot of people are also calling Apple Stores "Mac Stores".
Another famous example is the Mercedes-Benz. The name of the company which manufactures it is Daimler. Naturally, they don't make Daimler cars, Jaguar does: Daimler was originally a Daimler-Benz brand, but due to a contract mistake accidentally handed the right to the name over to a licensee.
Barbie is often referred to as a company, rather than just a product made by Mattel.
Many years ago the paint manufacturer Berger ran a campaign in the UK to try to raise awareness of its own name rather than that of its various paint brands.
Of further note are several companies that, while they did not originally share their names with their better-known brand names, have changed their names to avoid confusion. Convenience-store chain 7-Eleven's corporate presence was known as Southland Corporation until 1999, and fast food chain Jack in the Box was incorporated under the name Foodmaker until the same year.
With 7-Eleven it's a bit more complicated. To make long story short, the company just went bankrupt and was bought out by its Japanese partner, Seven & I. Holdings.
In the Chicago suburb of Lake Forest, a Burger King wanted to open up. As Lake Forest is a fairly wealthy suburb, Burger King approached the city under the name of the corporate owners. When the Burger King went up, the city protested as they didn't want a fast food place, but had already signed off on the restaurant.
Here's a particularly fun one: the UK division of Mars, the maker of the eponymous candy bar, changed their name to Masterfoods in 2001, to try to distance their non-candy brands from that of the well-known chocolate bar. Then five years later, they changed their name back to Mars because the new name wasn't as memorable.
The American division took the same name in 2005, but changed back at the same time as the UK division; everyone, even the business media, just kept calling them "M&M Mars" anyways, while almost nobody knows they make Pedigree and Whiskas pet foods. Besides, Mars is a family business—wholly owned by the Mars family.
The Haloid Corporation changed its name to Xerox. That machine you use and the paper you get out of it are a copier and a copy, respectively, not a xerox. It was not originally correct to use 'xerox' as a verb to mean the act of copying, but it had become quite common.
Binney & Smith changed their name to Crayola LLC in 2007.
An episode of Jeopardy! asked which company made the Bold 9000 smartphone. The correct company was not "BlackBerry" as they said it was, but rather Canadian firm "Research in Motion". The company later renamed themselves to "BlackBerry" on January 30, 2013.
Sun Microsystems Inc. switched their Nasdaq stock symbol from SUNW to JAVA in 2007, after their popular programming language. Sun originally started out selling only hardware. The company merged with Oracle Corp. in 2010.
Software makers regularly do this. "Avast Software", maker of the popular antivirus, was once called "Alwil Software". "Diskeeper Corporation" started out as "Executive Software".
The owner of Target stores was called the Dayton Hudson Corporation (and before that the Dayton Dry Goods Company) until August 2000, when it was renamed the Target Corporation.
Not even products are safe from this. In several cases, people tend to use the trademarked name of a well known product as a catch-all name for the same product made by other companies. For example, no matter who makes petroleum jelly, people will likely call it "Vaseline". The same goes for adhesive bandages, which are almost exclusively called "Band-Aids". And that generic box of toasted whole grain oat cereal that looks like Cheerios, but definitely isn't called that? Doesn't matter. They're still Cheerios! The term is referred to as a generic trademark.
Back in the late 70's and early 80's, you didn't play Video Games, you played Atari - regardless if you had a Colecovision or Intellivision.
From the mid-80s to the early 21st century, the same went for Nintendo. It didn't help that for most of the NES's life span, Nintendo refused to call it a video game console due to fear of a repeat of the 1983 crash.
Once upon a time, Pentax cameras (named for the roof pentaprism viewfinder they used) were produced and sold by Asahi Optical Company, Ltd, as one of several lines of cameras the company sold. They proved so popular that the company renamed themselves Pentax. Additionally, the cameras' popularity caused the lens mount they used, the M42 lens mount, to be known as the "Pentax Screwmount" in the US. Similarly, the same lensmount was known in Japan as the "Praktika thread mount", after a brand of East German cameras that used them. The lensmount in question was actually designed and first used by VEB Zeiss Ikonnote based at the time in Soviet-occupied Germany, before they changed their name to Pentacon under pressure from Zeiss Ikon, a similarly named firm in the US Zone of Occupied Germany. Germany copyrights were presumably a complicated issue in the early Cold War years. for the Contax S, the first camera to use the roof pentaprism viewfinders that Pentax would take its name from.
The company that brews Fat Tire isn't called "The Fat Tire Brewing Company", it's "The New Belgium Brewing Company". The company actually makes several beers that don't even have "Fat Tire" in the name, but New Belgium Fat Tire is the only one of their beers that most people have heard of.
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels is actually called 'The Manifesto of the Communist Party'. Marx and Engels did not invent communism and never claimed to have done. The manifesto is no more a reference point for what communism is than the US Democratic Party Platform is a reference for what democracy is.
There was never a party in Russia called the Bolshevik Party. The party was called the Social Democratic Labour Party, and contained two factions, nicknamed Bolsheviks and Mensheviks (Russian for 'majority' and 'minority' respectively). These names reflect neither the composition of the party (normally the two groups were of roughly equal size) nor the respective factions' political opinions (if anything the opposite - the Mensheviks favoured a mass movement, while the Bolsheviks preferred a small movement of professional revolutionaries). The names came from the origin of the split, which had been a vote on party membership policy which the Bolsheviks narrowly won.
The name of the first emperor of the Roman Empire is generally given as "Augustus". That's actually a title - and indeed, one granted to virtually all Roman Emperors.
Prior to his accession as Emperor in 27 BCE, historians generally refer to Augustus as 'Octavian'. No-one called him this at the time - his legal name, and the one he was actually known as, was 'Gaius Julius Caesar'. 'Octavianus' was a rarely-used fourth name only really used to distinguish him from his namesake uncle and adoptive father.
Rome's third Emperor is generally known today as Caligula, but at the time he was known simply as Gaius.
The title 'Emperor' itself comes from the Latin Imperator. While it was consistently one of the head of state's titles, it simply means "commander" and was never considered their defining or most important title. The more important titles were considered to be Princeps ('first citizen') in the early Imperial period, Dominus ('master') in the late imperial period and Augustus throughout. The later Byzantine Emperors generally used Basileus.
The name of Julius Caesar's great rival, Pompey, is generally given as Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. As virtually all prominent Romans had three names, it is often assumed that this was his name. In fact, his name was just Gnaeus Pompeius - Pompey was from humble origins and, unlike most highborn Romans, had no third name. 'Magnus' simply meant 'the Great'.
A similar phenomenon occurs with Charlemagne, whose actual name was simply Charles (or 'Karl'). 'Charlemagne' means 'Charles the Great'.
Maximilien Robespierre's rule over France between 1793 and 1794 is generally referred to as 'The Terror'. Most people assume this was the name given to it by terrified ordinary people who were at risk of being executed by Robespierre. Actually it was the name Robespierre and his government themselves gave to their policies, and the people who they were supposed to be terrorising were not ordinary French people, but the foreign armies fighting against France.
Strictly speaking, Big Ben is the name of the bell that strikes the hour in the Elizabeth Tower* Renamed from the "Clock Tower" in 2012, partly to honour Queen Elizabeth Ⅱís sixtieth year on the throne and partly to put and end to the confusion over what the tower is called., rather than the clock itself or its clock tower.
Double example here, since most people who know the tower isn't called Big Ben persist in correcting people who get it wrong by informing them it's actually called St. Stephen's Tower. It isn't. St Stephen's Tower is a small tower at the main entrance to the Palace of Westminster (called St. Stephen's entrance), but the error is so widespread most tourist information websites still get it wrong. The tower which contains Big Ben was simply called the Clock Tower. As of the Diamond Jubilee, said tower shall be called "Elizabeth Tower" after Queen Elizabeth II.
David Mitchell on The Unbelievable Truth: "You're standing at the bottom of Big Ben—you know what I mean by Big Ben and everyone will write in and say it's not called Big Ben, the tower with the clock in that makes the bongy noise!"
The founder of "Wendy's" was Dave Thomas. "Wendy" refers to his daughter note extra example here in that her name is actually Melinda. Wendy is her nickname, who was mentioned often in commercials by Thomas, but didn't actually start appearing in the commercials until 2011 - at about the same time as a cute red-headed twenty-something in braids also started to appear as "Wendy" note yet another example here in that the character's actual name is "Red", not Wendy in other commercials. Then there is the cartoon Wendy: the Pippi Longstocking type who appears on the logo, and eventually became an animated mascot much like Ronald McDonald. Very confusing.
Same with Mercedes, which is called after the daughter of one of the employees of Daimler-Benz.
Carl's Jr, to some extent. Its founder's name was Carl Karcher, but his dad's name was Leo. Karcher initially opened a restaurant called Carl's Drive-In Barbecue, then a smaller version that he called Carl's Jr. The latter ended up becoming the More Popular Spin-off.
While there is a town of that name in the Zone of Alienation, Chernobyl refers to the district in which the nuclear disaster took place. The power plant is located in Pripyat, 15 km from the town of Chernobyl.
Incidentally, the official name of the power plant wasn't Chernobyl, it was the Vladimir I. Lenin Nuclear Power Station.
Not many people know that Paul Frank's famous monkey character is actually called Julius. Others actually think he shares his creator's name.
Also "for the record", "Christ" is the Greek-derived word for "anointed" (how you show someone is a king, prophet or both). The Aramaic/Hebrew-sourced version being, of course "Messiah". In either case, "Christ" is NOT Jesus' last name. He probably didn't have one—most people at the time either didn't need one, or if they did it wasn't fixed: he'd just be '...the carpenter' '...from Nazareth', '...the preacher', depending on the circumstances. If he had one, his full name would probably have been, in Hebrew, "Jesus the son of Joseph".
To help illustrate this, many times in Paul's letters, he refers to "Christ Jesus", which is not a typo.
Similarly, "Santa" is not Santa Claus's first name.
While there is not a scholarly consensus on what exactly it does mean, "Iscariot" was not Judas' surname. The most popular theory is that it means "from Kerioth", but it is certainly a descriptive term, not a name.
The name of the man who became known as St Peter, referred to in the Bible as 'Peter' and sometimes 'Simon Peter' was Shimon, anglicised as Simon. 'Peter' was a nickname given to him by Jesus meaning 'rock'. When Jesus addresses him by name, he calls him Simon.
The authors of many older Jewish theological books, such as Ḥazon Ish or Ben Ish Ḥai, are commonly referred to by the name of their works, even though their real names are known. This is roughly equivalent to knowing Herman Melville as "Moby Dick".
"Genghis Khan" is a title, not a name. His real name was Temüjin.
In United States space travel, Apollo refers to the name of the program, not the rocket (either Saturn IB or Saturn V, depending on the mission), or the spacecraft itself (after the first two missions, each Command Module and Lunar Module had its own name).
Kimberley-Clark is known as "the Kleenex company" despite having several other very successful products like Huggies diapers and Cottonelle toilet paper.
A cockney is traditionally born within the sound of Bow Bells. Many people, even a lot of Londoners if they were honest, think this refers to the district of Bow deep in the old East End. In fact Bow Bells refers to the church of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside, right in the heart of the financial district. Given the amount of traffic and building work in the area one would have to be born on the pavement outside to be within earshot. One American guide book had a good stab at the truth, insisting that Bow Bells were not in fact in Bow but in Aldgate. At least it was partly right.
The University of Wisconsin actually refers to thirteen campuses in cities scattered all across the state. The school that most know as "Wisconsin" and whose athletic teams play in the Big Ten is actually the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
This tends to cause frustration for students and alumni from the other UW schools such as UW-Stevens Point (UWSP) or UW-Whitewater (UWW) when applying for jobs out of state who often end having to explain the naming convention. This is particularly a problem for UW-Milwaukee which also shares the UWM initials with Madison (although the Madison campus is usually referred to only as UW with no qualifiers). This has led some to casually refer to the university as "University of Milwaukee" in the hope of avoiding confusion.
The State University of New York (SUNY) system is similar. Particularly irritating is confusion between the State University of New York at Buffalo (usually shortened to University at Buffalo) and the State University of New York College at Buffalo (better known as Buffalo State College). But few people would say that they graduated from SUNY, only that they graduated from a SUNY school.
The host of The Daily Show is not "John Daily" or "Jon Daily". His name is Jon Stewart. The show he hosts is named as such because it is shown daily Monday through Thursday. (And if that really were his name, it would more likely be spelled "Daley.")
Has anyone ever actually gotten this confused? I've never heard of that. Though I have heard plenty refer to the show itself as Jon Stewart, as if it's named after its host.
At least professionally. He was born Jon Stewart Leibowitz. (He legally changed his name in the 2000s.)
During the Second World War, American soldiers came across railroad stations with a large sign stating simply, "HALT," and mistook this for the name of the town. In reality, "halt" in German means "stop," and the signs were put there so that people would not attempt to trespass. By the end of the war, there were several instances of towns named Halt across the country.
Funny, as "halt" is also a perfectly common English synonym for "stop" (English and German are related languages, both being West Germanic languages, so this is not an example of a false cognate).
The English word "halt" isn't an inherited cognate from Proto-Germanic via Anglo-Saxon, but rather a direct borrowing from German. The former does exist however, that would be the word hold.
Also, foreigners driving on German motorways often believe at first that "Ausfahrt" is a town's name.
And then there's the story of Ireland's worst driver, the mysterious Polish serial-speedster and parking offender Mr. Prawo Jazdy. The Irish police stopped and fined him on numerous occasions, but he constantly managed to evade justice by giving the police a different address every time. Eventually, after more than 50 incidents involving the elusive Prawo Jazdy, someone in the police-force asked their colleagues a somewhat embarrassing question: What is the Polish word for "Driver's License"?
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris on the Charlie Hebdo paper and the #JeSuisCharlie campaign that followed it, many had a misconception that Charlie Hebdo is the name of one of the victims, or the editor of the paper. There is no person named as such, "Hebdo" is simply short for the French word "hebdomadaire" meaning "weekly", and the "Charlie" comes from an older comics magazine created by the original publishers, which was sort of a double reference to both Charlie Brown of Peanuts and then French President Charles De Gaulle.
An interesting example is "Ruby Ridge", what the site of the famous 1992 standoff in Idaho between Randy Weaver and federal agents is commonly referred to, most believe it refers to a town or site named Ruby Ridge. In fact no place was ever referred to as such prior to the incident. The incident occurred at a previously unnamed location that sat between Ruby Creek and Caribou Ridge. "Ruby Ridge" was a media coined portmanteau that eventually caught on.