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To google

To google


Listen to Professor Crystal

To google - as a verb. Of course, everybody's heard of Google the search engine - popular development of the 1990s. In fact, in 1999, Google was designated the most useful word by the American Dialect Society, as a verb! 'I'm going to google.' 'We are googling.' And, of course, there's all sorts of associated words that have come since - you know, 'we are googlers, if we google!' And people who google a lot are 'google-minded', and I suppose there are lots of other coinages too.

The word itself comes from a mathematical term, 'googol', a term meaning 10 to the 100th power, an impossibly large concept, indeed. And, of course, the Google search engine has also become impossibly large! When you go searching for a word on Google, you might get a million hits, or 10 million hits, or a hundred million hits.

Of course, the penalty of success is when you have a word enter the language and it was originally a word that you thought you owned. In fact, the firm Google is very concerned over this use as a verb, because it is their trade mark - they like to keep the capital letter in the definition, for example - if you use it, they say, do use it with a capital 'G'. But they've got a problem, I mean, no firm, no matter how big, can control language change!

They're not the first firm to be worried about this sort of thing. Xerox, once upon a time, was very worried about the way their name had become part of the language as a whole, you know, 'I'm going to xerox something', meaning - I'm going to photocopy something. And Hoover was another one, you know, it now means any sort of vacuum cleaner. Of course, Hoover is a particular brand of vacuum cleaner. So Google are a bit worried about this use of their name as a verb, but they won't be able to stop it. As I say, no firm, no matter how big, can control language change.


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