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Google Says Googling Is Inappropriate

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-08-14

Recently, the Washington Post received a letter, on paper, hand-addressed, and in the mail, from Google attorneys asking the newspaper to avoid using Google as a verb. Perhaps paper makes a demand seem more serious than email. The Post responded, only slightly mocking in tone, snickering at the legal use of the word "hottie."

From the article:

Appropriate: He ego-surfs on the Google search engine to see if he's listed in the results.

Inappropriate: He googles himself.

But this one's our favorite:

Appropriate: I ran a Google search to check out that guy from the party.

Inappropriate: I googled that hottie.

Not only is "googled" inappropriate, but apparenly the word "hottie" is frowed upon as well.

Google was sensitive about the use of its trademark before Merriam-Webster officially added "to google" to the English language. Last October, I received a particularly snippy email (which means it wasn't nearly as serious as WaPo's paper letter) asking that I make it clear that a person could not google something on Yahoo! (I'm paraphrasing).

Funny, the company didn't seem to mind when Pontiac made use of the phrase, instructing consumers to google Pontiac on national television. In fact, the company consented ahead of time.

And, as The Independent points out, the company takes a much different stance on intellectual property when it comes to Google News and Google Print. Well, that's convenient.

It's understandable Google's trademark managers don't want to risk the Xerox and Kleenex branding death march, even if its unclear that genericide will apply to an Internet company in the same way it does to consumer tangibles. In the dotcom world, it seems very clear to everyone what is meant by "googling" something.

But then again, it took "escalator" 50 years to become generic. Too bad for Otis Elevator, who trademarked the phrase. The genericization of the word crippled the company, right?

Oh. Guess not.

Google needs to realize the meme that is Google.com has juggernauted far beyond the point of no return. It's too late, without taking down your site altogether, to perform a lexicographical Googlectomy. It's part of the language. Good luck in changing it back.

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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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