Is Weed Eater a Brand?

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The weed eater is a staple in the gardener’s tool set. You use it to remove weeds and it is considered one of the most efficient yard power tools, along with lawn mowers and hedge trimmers. But the name is also a source of confusion. Is it a brand or a generic term? You are in the right place as I will clear up the confusion.

Weed eater is the name George Ballas gave to his invention because of the way it trimmed weeds. The Weed Eater brand currently belongs to Husqvarna and includes trimmers, blowers and mowers. In general usage however, weed eater is synonymous with string trimmer, weed wacker and weed trimmer.

Weed Eater, String Trimmer, Weed Wacker?

If you have never purchased a weed eater before, you are probably confused by all the names. You one product called a weed eater, yet another one is called a weed wacker. Other names include string trimmer, weed trimmer and weed whipper. And some say weed eater is a brand name.

What gives? Okay to sum it up:

Weed eater is the brand name for a string trimmer that businessman George Ballas Sr. invented in 1972. A string trimmer is a yard tool used to cut weeds and grass. The terms weed whipper, weed trimmer and strimmer are synonymous with string trimmers.

Because the Weed Eater brand was so popular, it has become some sort of generic trademark. For example, Jacuzzi is a brand that makes hot tubs. All Jacuzzi are hot tubs, but not all hot tubs are made by Jacuzzi. Other examples are Band-aid, which a brand that sells bandages, Dremel, Kleenex, Thermos and so on.

Weed wacker is also a trademark owned by Black and Decker. Like Weed Eater, it is used interchangeably with string trimmer.

So can we say that all Weed Eaters are string trimmers, but not all string trimmers are Weed Eaters? Not anymore.

There was a time when the Weed Eater company made nothing but string trimmers. In that case it would be appropriate to call all Weed Eaters string trimmers.

But when Husqvarna bought the Weed Eater company, they decided to expand the line. Aside from string trimmers, the Weed Eater brand now includes leaf blowers, lawn mowers, hedge trimmers and other garden tools.

What is the Right Term to Use?

It does not really matter whether you call it a weed eater,, string trimmer etc. Stores – online and physical – both know you are referring to a string trimmer. So even if you say weed eater, weed wacker or weed trimmer, they have a clear idea what you need.

In most of the US, the term “weed eater” is the most widely used. If you want to buy a string trimmer like the Cocheer, you will find products called weed eaters, weed wacker, trimmer, they are all the same.

If this is your first time to buy a string trimmer, don’t be surprised if you see different terms used depending where you are.

Most states in the west and south prefer to use the term “weed eater” Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, Arkansas and Mississippi all use weed eater.

If you live in new Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont or New Jersey, the term “string trimmer” is more popular.

But as I said, it doesn’t matter what the local preference may be regarding the name. It all points to the same thing.

Why is it Called Weed Eater?

The origin of its name comes from an incident involving car wash and a snake bite. George Ballas was a businessman in Houston, Texas. One day he learned that one of his employees got bitten by a snake hiding in overgrown bushes.

The employee was cutting grass with a pair of shears when the snake bit. Ballas realized that shears were not good or safe enough for typical lawn care. There had to be a better option.

It was sometime in 1972 when Ballas came up with the idea. He was in the car wash and was struck by how the bristles removed dirt from his car without damage.

That was when he realized the this could be used on grass and weeds as well. After Ballas got home, he made some holes in a can and put a fishing line in it. He connected the can to the lawn edger rotary.

When Ballas turned the lawn edger on, the fishing line started spinning and cut through the grass. Ballas thought the line did a good job “eating weeds”, so the name weed eater was born.

Ballas further refined his invention for the next few months. Finally he was able to produce two models, the Clippie and Weedie.

Success and Expansion

Ballas was looking for a company to distribute his Weed Eaters, but no one wanted to take a chance with it. So he formed his own company.

Because of how efficient the device was, the Weed Eater company became a huge success. In a few years the company was making over $40 million yearly. Five years after Ballas invented the Weed Eater in 1972, the company was earning $80 million a year.

Eventually Ballas would sell the Weed Eater brand to Emerson Electric and today, the Weed Eater brand is with Husqvarna. The Weed Eater brand has expanded and includes other garden tools.

A Look at the Original Weed Eaters

The Clippie was the first electric Weed Eater. It weighed 2 pounds and sold for $29.95 back in 1977. The Clippie was a huge success and was soon followed by the Snippy. The Snippy was priced at $50 and also did well in the market. Finally there was the $89.95 Needie, which tipped the scales at 8.5 pounds.

These string trimmers used fishing lines for the string. The difference between the models was that each successive model was more powerful than the one which came before it. The Weedy was the first gas operated Weed Eater. Like the Clippie it was a huge success.

How Weed Eaters Have Changed

So how much have string trimmers changed since George Ballas invented it? Well, quite a number of things have happened.

I want to make it clear that the basic concept of how string trimmers work has not changed. They have become more powerful yes, but the mechanisms have not been altered much including primer bulbs.

One development however, has transformed string trimmers into something more powerful. And I am talking about attachments.

An attachment is a tool that you plug onto a string trimmer to enhance its function. The Sunseeker attachment turns your string trimmer into a hedge trimmer for example. There are also attachments that convert weed eaters into lawn mowers, lawn edgers, leaf blowers and so on.

These attachments have changed lawn care. Why buy a hedge trimmer when you can purchase an attachment that turns your weed eater into one?

Now I will admit that a hedge trimmer attachment is not as good as a real hedge trimmer. This is also the case for other lawn care attachments. But if you are on a budget and only need basic garden maintenance, these attachments are enough.

What is Next for the Weed Eater?

Husqvarna said they will be bringing the Weed Eater back to prominence with new products. And that is not surprising given that the name is synonymous with string trimmers.

It is not easy to predict what the future has for the Weed Eater brand and string trimmers in general. One thing I can see gaining ground is battery powered string trimmers.

Battery powered models offer a lot of benefits. You are not bogged down by a cord, and they are not as heavy or costly as a gas model. And in terms of power, battery string trimmers are fast catching up with gas and electric models too.