Although my Greek relatives may tell you the discus pre-dated it by over 2000 years, the Frisbee was a wonderful invention. It was a modern take on a good idea, for the age of plastic. The inventor, Walter Fred Morrison, died on the weekend.
Wham-O bought the design and patent from Mr. Morrison back in 1957. Interestingly, Mr. Morrison hated the name Frisbee, an homage to the Frisbie Pie Company whose pie discs were thrown by Yale students around the same time. He preferred his original names, Flyin’ Cake Pan, the Whirlo-Way, the Flyin-Saucer and his real favourite, the Pluto Platter.
In an homage to brand heritage, Wham-O released the limited edition Pluto Platter (pictured) a few years ago. I like Pluto Platter; its pre-Disney time frame suggests thoughts of the far away planet surrounded by discs. According to the New York Times, Mr. Morrison’s concerns with the Frisbee name reduced as his royalty payments increased into the millions of dollars.
Interestingly, everything is called “Frisbee Discs” on the Wham-O website, in an effort to protect intellectual property. Most North Americans tend to call any flying disc a “Frisbee”, just like any Brit tends to call any vacuum cleaner a “Hoover.” The company itself must always include the category descriptor to avoid the brand being genericized. Have a look at Kleenex’s product page to see how they never refer to “a Kleenex”; rather it’s always “Kleenex (r) tissues”.
I might just be picking myself up a new Frisbee brand disc on my next trip to North America. No trip to the beach should be without one. Now if I could only teach my wife how to throw one properly.