Special trade names issue: wally, waldo and chocolate bars

Standing outside a bookshop today, Better Half pointed out the Where's Wally books, and wondered why the man called Waldo in America is Wally in the UK. No one seems to know.

The Wally/Waldo books are the invention of an Englishman, so I am assuming (just because there's precious little info on this on the internet) that Wally was the original name. In BrE, a wally is someone who's a bit of an idiot. It doesn't have this meaning in AmE, and neither does Waldo, so why they felt the need to change it in the US, I'm not sure. My only guess is that they chose Waldo because it's a funny-sounding name, and that might make up for the fact that the 'dunce' connotations of the name were lost on Americans. It's also a name that's pretty much died out in the US since the 1950s. The Where's Waldo books have not, it seems, sparked a baby-naming trend. (See: Name Voyager, a fun way to waste some time.)

The family of (US) candy bars / (UK) chocolate bars made by M&M/Mars (aka Masterfoods) provide another case of onomastic mismatch between the US and UK, as the following table shows. (Hey, look at me! I figured out how to make an html table!)

inside the barUSUK
nougat3 MusketeersMilky Way
nougat, caramelMilky WayMars
nougat, caramel, peanutsSnickers until 1990: Marathon; since 1990: Snickers
nougat, caramel, almondsuntil 2000: Mars now: Snickers Almond n/a
caramel (in a pretzel shape--vague equivalents; not made by the same company)Marathon (R.I.P.) Cadbury Curly Wurly

Just to be confusing, there's now an energy bar called Snickers Marathon. I have read one theory that Snickers was originally called Marathon in the UK because Snickers sounded too much like knickers (i.e. underpants).

For a visual comparison of US/UK Mars, see The Visible Mars Bar Project In general, Americans are more likely than Europeans to put Almonds in their chocolate, and Europeans are more likely to put hazelnuts in their chocolate, though you see more and more of both on both sides of the Atlantic these days. Both are delightful in their own ways.


  1. I read in an article that Wally was actually American slang for testicle, that would explain why his name is changed to Waldo...

  2. When British people hear the name "Masterfoods", do they usually think of confectionary? In Australia, most people associate Masterfoods with their savoury range of products such as mustard. True, Masterfoods make Mars bars etc too - but who reads the small print on packets of confectionary?

  3. Masterfoods isn't really a household name, so I doubt people have much of an image of it at all...

  4. There once was a book called something like: "Why did they name it (blank)?"
    All about brand names. In that book, it said that the UK version of the peanut-filled bar was named Marathon in the UK because that was the name of the owner of the Mars company's horse. They couldn't use the name in the US because there already was a Marathon bar, so they used the name of Marathon's stablemate, a pony called Snickers.


The book!

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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)