Etymology Usage

The plastic thingy on a bread bag

Q: Do you know the word for the plastic thingy that’s used to close bread bags and sometimes bags of produce?

A: You won’t find it in standard dictionaries—at least not yet—but that thingy is usually called a “bread clip” (about 81,000 hits on Google). Other common names for it are “bread tag” (18,000 hits) and “bread tab” (9,700).

The Kwik Lok Corp., the company that gave us the bread clip, calls it an “all-plastic bag closure” (18,000 hits, but mostly on business websites). You’ll find a lot of other jargony names for it on commercial sites.

Floyd Paxton, the founder of Kwik Lok, is credited with inventing the notched plastic contraption for fastening all kinds of plastic bags.

In 1952, the company’s website says, Paxton “whittled the ‘first’ Kwik Lok out of a piece of plastic while flying home from a business trip to the Pacific Northwest.”

Paxton, a member of the John Birch Society’s national board of directors, failed in four attempts to win a Congressional seat from Washington State—twice representing the Conservative Party and twice as a Republican. He died of a heart attack in 1975.

If you haven’t had your fill of bread-related reading, check out a posting we wrote a few years ago about the expression “bigger than a breadbox.”

Descriptive phrases like “no larger than a breadbox” and “not much bigger than a breadbox” were known in the 1940s. But the question “Is it bigger than a breadbox?” was popularized by Steve Allen back when he was a panelist on the TV quiz show “What’s My Line” in the 1950s and ’60s.

Check out our books about the English language