Monday, October 15, 2012
As the linguist said to the lawyer…
Lawyer: Google wants to bring a case against anyone who uses Google as a verb.
Linguist: I understand your client’s concern that their brand is being eroded.
Lawyer: But they own the brand. They trademarked it.
Linguist: Could I ask where google got the name from?
Lawyer: It means a lot. From Googol.
Linguist: Did the inventor of “googolplex” sue Google? And they spelt it wrong. G-o-o-g-l-e. They want to patent a spelling mistake?
Lawyer: This is a serious legal issue.
Linguist: I’m not much help to you as an expert witness, I’m afraid. You can’t legislate against popular taste in language use. Xerox tried and failed. Hoover tried and failed. The French tried to outlaw English and failed. Besides, you can’t stop people googling. Google is now an eponym.
Google is a verb derived from a proper noun.
google (transitive verb)
googling (present continuous)
googled (simple past)
was googled (past passive)
Larry Page and Sergey Brin themselves used “google” as a verb as far back as 1998.
But google isn’t an adverb. (googily). Not yet. See the language police and lawyers pounce then.
Short film on Google at