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Due to the dominance of the Google search engine, to google became a transitive verb. The neologism commonly refers to searching for information on the World Wide Web using the Google search engine. The American Dialect Society chose it as the "most useful word of 2002". It was added to the Oxford English Dictionary on June 15, 2006, and to the eleventh edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary in July 2006.
The first recorded usage of google used as a gerund, thus supposing an intransitive verb, was on July 8, 1998, by Google co-founder Larry Page himself, who wrote on a mailing list: "Have fun and keep googling!". Its earliest known use (as a transitive verb) on American television was in the "Help" episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (October 15, 2002), when Willow asked Buffy, "Have you googled her yet?" To prevent genericizing and potential loss of its trademark, Google has discouraged use of the word as a verb, particularly when used as a synonym for general web searching. On February 23, 2003, Google sent a cease and desist letter to Paul McFedries, creator of Word Spy, a website that tracks neologisms. In an article in the Washington Post, Frank Ahrens discussed the letter he received from a Google lawyer that demonstrated "appropriate" and "inappropriate" ways to use the verb "google". It was reported that, in response to this concern, lexicographers for the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary lowercased the actual entry for the word, google, while maintaining the capitalization of the search engine in their definition, "to use the Google search engine to seek online information" (a concern which did not deter the Oxford editors from preserving the history of both "cases"). On October 25, 2006, Google sent a request to the public requesting that "You should please only use 'Google' when you're actually referring to Google Inc. and our services."
In 2013 the Swedish Language Council attempted to include the Swedish version of the word ("ogooglebar") in its list of new words, but Google objected to the definition not being specifically related to Google, and the Council was forced to briefly remove it to avoid a legal confrontation with Google.
Google Search generally ignores punctuation and letter case even when using the "quotation" operator to denote exact searches. Thus, Google may not be able to differentiate terms for which punctuation impacts meaning—for example, "man eating chicken" and "man-eating chicken" (the former meaning a human who is consuming chicken meat and the latter a chicken that eats humans). Because Google treats upper and lower case letters as one and the same, it also is unable to differentiate between the pronoun he and the surname He, which, when combined with its disregard for punctuation, could bury results for an obscure person named "Thomas He" among results such as:
... Assisted by Thomas, he was able to provide incontrovertible proof of this theory, and in so doing, he gained wide recognition in the medical ...
The above also exemplifies how Google's PageRank algorithm, which sorts results by "importance", could also cause something to become ungoogleable: results for those with the 17th most common Chinese surname ("He") are difficult to separate from results containing the 16th most common word in English. In other words, a specific subject may be ungoogleable because its results are a needle in a haystack of results for a more "important" term.
- Ogooglebar, Swedish for Ungoogleable
- Photoshop (verb), a similar neologism referring to digital photo editing
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- "Who, What, Why: What is 'ungoogleable'?". BBC News Magazine. BBC. March 27, 2013. Retrieved April 5, 2013.
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- Williams, Rob (March 26, 2013). "'Ungoogleable' removed from list of Swedish words after row over definition with Google: California based search engine giant asked Swedish to amend definition". The Independent. Retrieved April 5, 2013.
- Search operators - Search Help
- "Thomas He" - Google Search
- "China's Surnames". Cdn.theatlantic.com. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
- Bergman, Michael K. (August 2001). "White Paper: The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value". Journal of Electronic Publishing. 7 (1). doi:10.3998/3336451.0007.104. hdl:2027/spo.3336451.0007.104. ISSN 1080-2711.
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