Google calls in the 'language police'
June 24, 2003 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Google calls in the 'language police': "Google is now a verb, meaning to search. It sounds like the ultimate compliment to the company, so why do its lawyers want to keep the word out of our dictionaries?"
posted by eclectica (19 comments total)
Like Xerox, once in the public lexicon, a company loses control over the name.
posted by the fire you left me at 12:21 PM on June 24, 2003

Dilution of trademark. Bad news for a company like Google.
posted by cachilders at 12:22 PM on June 24, 2003

All I have to say to Google and its lawyers is 'Good luck!'
posted by dgaicun at 12:26 PM on June 24, 2003

I've been using it as a verb for a while. Someone asks me something and I would say 'I dunno. Google it.'
posted by Nauip at 12:46 PM on June 24, 2003

When was the last time you blew your nose in a "Puffs tissue?" Everyone calls it "kleenex" regardless of brand.

I grew up with that one, so I'm used to it, but an example that really grates on me is the current hip-hop weenie tendency to refer to "Lexus jeeps" and "Lincoln jeeps." I'm sure Chrysler, owner of the Jeep brand, wishes there was something they could do about that.

I also use "Google" as a verb, meaning only to search on Google. I think that's natural. I don't know if preventing inclusion in the dictionary will reallly help prevent what they hope to avoid: talk of "googling Yahoo" and "googling Teoma."
posted by Tubes at 12:53 PM on June 24, 2003

honestly, I really hate the use of the term 'google' as a verb. For one thing, I don't really like the word in general. Google is a cool site and all, but they picked a lame name.

Secondly, Google is a nice company and all, but I'd still rather not corpritize more of our language.
posted by delmoi at 12:55 PM on June 24, 2003

We're not corporatizing our language, we're languagizing our corporations.

posted by xmutex at 1:16 PM on June 24, 2003

I don't know what you guys are talking about. Whenever I googol something I just add 100 zeros to the end of it...
posted by junkbox at 1:16 PM on June 24, 2003

Whenever I Google something, I send it to Barney.
posted by wendell at 1:20 PM on June 24, 2003

What a load of shit-eating, queercore cockmanship!
posted by Dark Messiah at 1:32 PM on June 24, 2003

The story is unfortunately short on details. In point of fact, Google has been contacting people who define "Google" as "search for" and asking that they change the definition to "search for using Google."

Not a large deal -- and Google's suggested change comports with how most people use "Google" when they use it as a verb.
posted by grimmelm at 3:54 PM on June 24, 2003

William Gibson used Google as a verb in his most recent book, Pattern Recognition. I'm afraid that Google is too late.
posted by SpecialK at 5:18 PM on June 24, 2003

Companies have to fight to make their brand recognized, but keep it from becoming generic at the same time. Once the term doesn't refer specifically to their product, it's worthless. McDonald's fights very hard to make sure that the prefix of "Mc" is only applied to their food for the same reason Google doesn't want to be in the dictionary.
posted by simonk at 5:24 PM on June 24, 2003

When I tell someone to "Google it", I hardly mean for them to go do a search on Yahoo (or wherever). I mean that they should go to Google and look for it. Is it really being used so generically as to mean "search on an search engine"?
posted by Orb at 5:31 PM on June 24, 2003

Proof that even the smartest companies eventually turn dirty stick stone stupid. Fuck 'em.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:10 PM on June 24, 2003

I can understand why Google wants to protect the term, but in truth, nothing lasts forever. It was going to happen eventually, the same as Kleenex and Jeep and Hoover and Xerox, and even Coke. I never ask for a "Pepsi", no matter what brand of cola they serve. I ask for Coke and get a cola.

I think Google's had a good go. They're still the leader of their market. 99% of the uses of "google" as a verb probably do refer to their specific search engine. What's the deal?
posted by Jimbob at 7:25 PM on June 24, 2003

There are two issues here, the practical and the legal. As a practical matter, Google cannot win: just as Xerox and Kleenex (noted above), the names have become widely used as synonyms for photocopy and facial tissue (though not universal: I became confused at a house when I was asked to "bring the Scotties", and wondered where the dogs were).


Xerox has successfully defended its legal trademark rights, and Google is setting out to do the same. By diligently following up whenever major publications or websites "mis-use" their trademark, they will be able to protect their rights and prevent the word from legally passing into the generic realm, joining aspirin, escalator, and others. This is going to entail a steady stream of "lawyer letters", otherwise known as the cease and desist order. Note that success is not required, only diligent action. As long as Google can show that they have followed up on mis-use of the mark, they will be able to forestall any third party challenging the trademark in court.

People tend to think that corporations are getting, well, all corporate when they do this, but unfortunately that's the way the laws are written at this date. Copyrights are for set terms, but trademarks are valid while in use and must be defended.
posted by dhartung at 9:34 PM on June 24, 2003

Good point, dhartung, although I'd suggest the lengthy chain of reasoning that leads to the conclusion that trademarks 'must be defended' contains a few weak links.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:04 PM on June 24, 2003

Here is the actual cease and desist "delete or revise" letter, and this is the revised WordSpy definition.

Seems pretty reasonable to me.
posted by UrbanFigaro at 10:43 PM on June 24, 2003

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