Words Confiscated By A Trade

I’m not even sure how to phrase this question, but here goes;

Companies catering to plumbers often names themselves “XYZ Supply” or something like that.

Similarly, companies that transport and store materials call themselves “Logistics”

How do these trades come to adopt such general terms, equally applicable to a wide array of businesses, as their only description?

A newcomer to English would never guess that if he needed pipes he should look for a “Supply” company. That could mean so many other things.

It strikes me as a bit presumptuous by these companies.

So I guess I have two questions;

  • How did this come about?
  • What are some other examples?

I had a Boss that would deliberately choose meaningless names when starting a company. That way if the focus of the business changed, it didn’t matter, and if the company went bust he could start the next company from the shell with minimal effort and expense.

(slightly altered) examples:

Poke LLC. Used to operate a gravel pit. Named after a horse.
Ysus LLC. Have no idea the buisness, but his wife’s name spelled backward.
ARQ-USA Originally stood for something but he started insisting it didn’t when it didn’t look that would go.

Years ago your customers could find you via the yellow pages or word of mouth. Now they can find you on-line. B-B businesses don’t rely so much on advertising as word of mouth and outside salesmen beating on doors and cold calling.

My dad started his hauling company and called it ******** Contracting, which in this area, connotes the idea of earth moving equipment, so he was endlessly flooded by applicants looking for work driving front end loaders and the like. He had a single Peterbilt truck.

It turns out that someone entered his company into an industry directory based on the percieved name. Eventually he just disconnected his phone.

“Implement” is one. The dictionary definition is essentially a synonym for “tool”, but if you’re an implement dealer you’re selling tractors and heavy duty agricultural machinery.

SuperValu, a wholesale supplier of groceries (and the name on many retail grocery stores) used to have their name SuperValu on all their delivery semi trucks. They changed that to the subsidiary name of “Advantage Logistics” because many of the retail grocery stores they were supplying had different, competing names. Local store managers of a Albertson’s or Byerly’s or Lund’s, etc., who were competing with a local SuperValu retail store didn’t like having a big delivery truck parked at their store with “SuperValu” blazoned across the side.

This fact is a key plot point in one of my favorite movies, True Believer.

One of the criminals provides only a cryptic clue, “art supplies” before being shut up by his buddies. Our heroes futilely search the city for an art supply house, until they finally figure out that they should instead be looking for “Art’s Supplies”, a plumbing equipment company run by a guy named “Art”.

I think you’re describing two different situations with your two examples.

“ABC Logistics” is a logical name for a company involved in logistics, which is the process of moving & storing goods. it’d be a silly name to apply to a hairdresser.

“XYZ Supply” could logically be any company involved in retail. The unadorned term “Supply” is often used for retail to the trades or retail to other small businesses rather than retail to consumers.

I doubt your premise that “XYZ Supply” somehow means “XYZ *Plumbing *Supply” in many or most cases. I can think of companies named like “XYZ Supply” around here which sell lumber, or masonary materials, or electrical components, or even auto parts.

More common than “XYZ Supply” for any product category, including plumbing, is the formulation “XYZ <Product category> Supply”, e.g “XYZ Electrical Supply”. I pass “Wholesale Plumbing Supply” on the freeway every time I drive to work.
You asked for additional examples. One formulation which is close to this idea is “<Product category> City”, e.g. “Carpet City” or “Furniture City”. The term “City” almost always means “small-box store selling high mark-up low quality goods at supposed knock-down prices, usually with high pressure commission salesmen in loud sportcoats.”

The same formulation ending in -ville, e.g. “Carpetville” means the same thing, but even rattier.