Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Ginsu" Knives Were Not Actually Japanese

"In Japan, the hand can be used like a knife...... But this method doesn't work with a tomato......"

Do you remember that opening line from the pioneering late 1970s informercial for "Ginsu" knives (90 seconds, embedded below)? Even today the official website for these knives still states proudly, "Ginsu knives are a symbol of ancient Japanese traditions."

Well, the Japanese link was actually a total marketing fabrication. Two founders of a Rhode Island-based direct marketing company had seen a set of knives (dubbed "EverSharp") being made in Ohio by a company called "Douglas Quikut" that was primarily a manufacturer of vacuum cleaner parts. These direct marketers decided to sell the knives nationally via TV infomercials, and thought that, to be more enticing, they needed to have a different name, one that was evocative of something foreign and exotic. Among other rejected possibilities, they apparently also considered giving the knives a name based on the scimitar before settling on Japan and the made-up, nonsense word "Ginsu."

Interestingly, according to the official website, the manufacturer, Douglas Quikut, is actually a division of another company called the "Scott Fetzer Company" which in turn has been owned by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway for over 20 years. Ginsu knives have been made in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas since 1988.

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