Friday, February 1, 2013

How Google Became a Verb

Many years ago, at least in terms of the internet, a couple of college students at Stanford (which is one of our top language universities in the U.S.) made something that helped change the way people both browse and speak. Their product, or perhaps service, was Google.

Without Google, finding things on the internet
is like finding a needle in a haystack.
As you surely know, Google is a search engine. Its primary function is to direct web users to the appropriate web page based on their search criteria. From its birth as a company all those years ago in 1998, Google has gone from strength to strength. From its humble origins as a white page with a text box, which hasn't changed much over the years, the corporation now includes cloud computing, email and even our much-loathed Google Translate.

The name for Google came from the word googol, which is the number 10100, written as a one followed by one hundred zeros. Making it a pretty big number obviously is supposed to indicate the prowess of the search engine's capabilities.

The word Google as the name for the company has existed since its inception, but as a verb the first known occurrence came in an email from co-founder Larry Page on 8 July 1998 in which he said "have fun and keep Googling!". Despite the company trying desperately to stop people using the word in this manner, they have only themselves to blame.

It's unlikely "google" was
featured in this dictionary.
The American Dialect Society chose it as their most useful word of 2002, and it was even mentioned in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer way back when.

In popular media it's used more and more frequently, and Google have taken steps to avoid its overuse since they fear it may become a generic trademark. They encourage people to use the verb to google (note the lowercase "g") only when referring specifically to Google's own search engine.

In many dictionaries, Google refers to the company or product, and google refers to the verb meaning "to search for on the internet", whether you use Google or not. So you can google on Google, but you can google using other search engines too!

With the world getting better-connected every day, we can only expect more words like this to find their way into the lexicon. We've heard people using Facebook as a verb too.

Have you heard any good internet neologisms? Tell us about them in the comments below!