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A Product Named Guillotine

Updated on February 20, 2014

There is a real product called "Swingline Guillotine Trimmer". While on paper it looks cute, and is admittedly a wonderful paper trimming tool, "Guillotine" is a rather tacky name for a product associated with sharp implements, especially one that has secured its horrid place in the history of horridness. Why would anyone want their product to be tainted by that history?

The Product

Swingline Guillotine Paper Trimmer
Swingline Guillotine Paper Trimmer | Source

Sordid History of Guillotine: How To Chop Heads And Influence People

Guillotine was not invented out of the blue. It was another evolutionary design improvement in a long history of mechanized beheadings going all the way back to the 12th century. Before guillotine there were the English "Hallifax Gibbet" and the German "Fallbeil". They were supposed to be more effective alternatives to using axes and swords.

Believe it or not guillotine was designed to be a more humane, painless and standardized execution device. Some of the same debates about the death penalty existed back then that do today. And the good people who were really concerned about the well-being of condemned individuals genuinely wanted to chop off heads in ways that the choppee would appreciate and so they spent a lot of sleepless nights trying to come up with the perfect solution to that age-old problem.

It just so happened that the invention, or rather, perfection of guillotine coincided with the French revolution and the horrors that followed during the infamous reign of terror. Among the most famous who lost their heads to guillotine were the French monarchs Louis XVI and his wife Marie "Let them eat cake" Antoinette, and of course, the inventor of the device himself, the French physician Joseph-Ignace Guillotine. During that period, thousands of intellectuals, dissidents, revolutionaries, nobilities and, ironically, many architects of the reign of terror were put to death in the hands of "Madame Guillotine", as the device became known. By one account, during a single day 3000 people were lined up, summarily tried and cut down by the efficient and humane tool. The most notorious figure of the reign of terror, Maximilien Robespierre himself, eventually enjoyed the fruits of his own unbound brutality and fell to the device as well.

The First Guillotine


What's in a name?

With that kind of a sordid history, one would imagine the name "guillotine" is too taboo to be used in a commercial product. What are they going to do next, come up with other products to be named similarly? Like exterminators named "Genghiz Khan, Inc."? Or spying devices named "Orwell Tools"? Or gas appliances named "Saddam Kitchen And Bath"? Or chopping tools named "Lorena Bobbet Utensils"? Or a dating site named "Henry The Eighth Wedding Bliss"? Or an investment firm named "Honest Madoff Retirement"? Or a blood bank named "Count Dracula Savings"?

You get the point.


Your Voice

What would you have named this paper trimmer instead of Guilltine?

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    • RonHawk profile image

      Ron Hawkins 3 years ago from California, United States

      CrispSp! So good to see you my good friend! I know, I haven't been as active as before but hoping to get back into the swing of things. Thank you for reading and the always supportive words!

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 3 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Lol! History with a twist (of humor)! Where have you been Ron? Glad to see you back and thank you for this short good night read.

      Toonpool clip is so funny! :)

    • RonHawk profile image

      Ron Hawkins 3 years ago from California, United States

      Thank you, Billybuc! Some of the darkest humor is found in history, followed closely by commerce. I always wonder if Ivan the Terrible was called that to his face and if he had a younger brother named "Pavel the Wonderful", even though I know history is not symmetrical like that.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hilarious in a black humor sort of way that I can appreciate...well done.