Google bad words

Protecting your brand makes perfect sense. It is, after all, a valuable commodity. For an individual, it tells the world what and who you are. For organisations, especially global behemoths, it is a hugely valuable resource worth untold billions of dollars in many cases: think Coca-Cola.

In similar fashion, Google has become a respected and trusted global brand and a household name. Indeed, as Hoover used to be to vacuum cleaners, so Google has today become the generic term for internet searching. There are many consumer goods manufacturers and promoters who would kill for that kind of recognition.

But just as very big boys sometimes tend to become bullies, so Google has started to throw its weight around in an unseemly fashion. This mindset led it to pick a fight with the Swedish Language Council (SLC).

This fascinating little organisation compiles an annual list of new words that become part of the Sweden’s native tongue. As they say, no man is an island and no language can remain static in today’s utterly interconnected world.

One of the new words that the SLC approved was “ogooglebar” which translates into English as “ungoogleable”. The Swedish Language Council gave it a definition as something that cannot be found on the web with a search engine. You’d have to think there can’t be too many such items. Still . . .

This caught the eye of Google’s corporate machine and they lodged a protest with the Swedes, telling them to use the actual word “Google” in the definition and also remind the world that Google is a registered trademark.

The Swedes did not take well to this and told Google it could go lose itself on the web somewhere. As they said so beautifully: Google has forgotten one thing: language development doesn’t care about the protection of trademarks.

“If we want to have ogogglebar in the language, then we’ll use the word and it’s our use that gives it meaning – not a multinational company exerting pressure. Speech must be free.”

I’m really starting to like these Swedes.

They refused to surrender to Google and, for the first time ever, withdrew the word from their annual list of newbies.

Google can perhaps learn what really happened by using the search term: bitch slap.


Acknowledgement: Chris Irvine, Telegraph, AFP, in The Australian Financial Review.