It was in 1890 that the Ouija board we all know today was commercialized by the Kennard Novelty Company, named after Charles Kennard, with the help of several investors, including Elijah Bond and William Fuld, all of whom at various times claimed to have been the original inventor, although talking boards such as the Ouija had been known among Spiritualists for several years prior to their involvement.
There are some good stories about how the name Ouija came to be, the most popular being that it was spelled out by the planchette when Kennard and Bond’s sister-in-law Helen Peters asked what this new device ought to be called. Kennard believed Ouija to mean “good luck.” Years later, William Fuld, who took over production of the Ouija board, claimed that the name meant “yes, yes,” combined from the French word Oui and German Ja, a legend that still sticks today.
Another popular story claims that the Ouija was approved for its patent only after Elijah Bond and his sister-in-law Helen Peters impressed the patent officer, whose name was allegedly unknown to them, by using the Ouija to reveal his name.
For an instrument as focused on language as the Ouija, it is little wonder that its own proper name must be stressed. While all manner of alphabet boards are commonly referred to by the name Ouija, the word itself is currently trademarked by Hasbro, Inc. Similar products are better referred to as talking boards.