To google or not to Google?

Quando l’uso ti erode il brand. In altre parole: quando la cosa diventa soltanto una parola, il brand ci perde. E allora entrano in gioco gli avvocati, come quelli di Google (TM) che non è poi così felice e fiero di essere entrato in forma di verbo nei maggiori vocabolari della lingua inglese, e anche nel Duden.

Leggo infatti qui:

In der neuen Auflage des Duden steht auf Seite 463 der Eintrag

googeln [‘gu:gln] (mit Google im Internet suchen); ich goog(e)le.

Auch in amerikanischen Wörtbüchern steht das Verb – eine Erfolgsgeschichte sondergleichen für ein Unternehmen, das es gerade acht Jahren gibt. Doch wenn es nach den Anwälten der Suchmaschine aus dem kalifornischen Mountain View geht, sollten sich Medien künftig zweimal überlegen, ob sie das Verb verwenden.

La BBC spiega:

Paul McFedries, who runs the lexicography site Word Spy, received a stiffly worded letter from the firm after he added “google” to his online lexicon. The company asked him to delete the definition or revise it to take account of the “trade mark status of Google”. He opted for the latter.

Google’s problem is one of the paradoxes of having a runaway successful brand. The bigger it gets, the more it becomes part of everyday English language and less a brand in its own right.

Just as we talk about “hoovering” instead of vacuuming, people have started to say “google” to mean search. The word has become an eponym.

It’s like an inversion of that Oscar Wilde saying: “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”


In fact, our language is littered with words that once used to be brands. Escalator, pogo, gunk and heroin are all examples, as is tabloid, which was originally registered by a drugs company in 1884 and came to mean “small tablet”.

But the current obsession on building brand status has ushered in a new phase in language. So much so, that experts now fear trade mark lawyers are trying to police the otherwise natural evolution of the English diction.

Ecco il sarcasmo con cui il giornalista del Washington Post ha accolto la lettera monitoria (e cartacea!) dei legali di Google TM:

Google […] provides a helpful list of appropriate and inappropriate uses of its name. To show how hip and down with the kids Google is, the company gets a little wacky with its examples. Here’s one:

” 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:

” Appr opriate: I ran a Google search to check out that guy from the party.

Inappropriate: I googled that hottie.”

It’s a matter of debate whether it’s appropriate or inappropriate for a market-leading company worth $113 billion to use the word “hottie” in official correspondence. What is beyond debate is the eye-popping fact that Google’s trademark complaint arrived via a hand-addressed letter in the actual mail.

[cfr. anche la voce “to google” in Wikipedia]