Is there an idiom / proprietary eponym for a common useful thing? More specifically, in a class of objects for sale, if someone were to order the most common one, which is overwhelmingly the most common example used, it would be the ____ of that class of objects.

Use examples (which sound awkward):

  • It's the Coca-Cola of battery-powered mousetraps.
  • It's the Kleenex of sorting algorithms.

except that I want to replace "Coca-Cola" and "Kleenex" with something that is less awkward-sounding.

The phrase the Cadillac of ____ is common for indicating the most luxurious / highest-quality in a class; I'm looking for a similar word but with connotations of common, useful, reliable, ordinary, dominant.


It's the workhorse of sorting algorithms.

From CED:

workhorse [2]: a machine that operates without failing for long periods, although it might not be very interesting or exciting:

The steam engine was the workhorse of the Industrial Revolution.

and the broadened sense from AHD:

workhorse 1. Something, such as a machine, that performs dependably under heavy or prolonged use:

the 50-year-old DC-3 ... one of aviation's most effective workhorses (Christian Science Monitor).

A very broadened usage example:

[The] Kohn-Sham density functional theory is the workhorse computational method in materials and surface science.

[NCBI: Accurate surface and adsorption energies from many-body perturbation theory – Schimka L, Harl J, Stroppa A, Grüneis A, Marsman M, Mittendorfer F, Kresse G.]


I can only add weak supporting evidence for the second suggestion here.

It's the Mack Truck of cameras.

Similar internet examples here.

The implication is solid, rugged, durable, reliable (hence the expression 'built like a Mack truck – UsingEnglish' ... and, dare I say, nothing fancy [Brian Yarvin at Photo net: 'These aren't "the Bentley of cameras," they're the Mack Truck of cameras.']

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  • That's pretty close to what I was looking for... I'd rather find a brand name with such connotations, but at least "workhorse" doesn't have the awkwardness factor. If I don't get another answer that sounds better within the next few days, I'll accept. – Jason S May 20 '18 at 23:16
  • this might be up your street dictionary.com/browse/mack-truck – Mari-Lou A May 20 '18 at 23:39

I would use the expression :

the JCB of reliability

From their own website, it is true that

in every corner of the world you'll find a JCB machine


They are instantly recognisable and 'JCB' is a common term for earthmoving equipment even when another brand is, in fact, on the building site. Much as 'Hoover' means, generally, vacuum cleaner.

They are the workhorse of our modern age, in every town, on every project, churning away every hour of the day and night.


[Note: I do not own shares in JCB. Honest.]

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  • Um, I’m in the U.S. and have no connection with any trade that involves earthmoving, and I’ve never heard of this company. If you used that phrase on me, I would draw a blank. It may not be as ubiquitous as you think. – Tom Zych May 21 '18 at 5:49
  • So, in the US, if you saw a big yellow thing on a building site moving earth around, what would you call it ? – Nigel J May 21 '18 at 5:51
  • It sounds like you mean the sort of machine that pushes earth with a blade. I’d call that a bulldozer. – Tom Zych May 21 '18 at 6:09
  • I think the question might get bogged down in parochial apprehensions, but let's see what happens. – Nigel J May 21 '18 at 6:11

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