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Swedish Language Council can’t be bothered to argue with Google over ‘ungoogleable’

Let history and the people decide
Tue Mar 26 2013, 15:18

SEARCH AND ADVERTISING outfit Google has lobbed a spanner into Swedish plans to start using the word Ogooglebar.

We've not been in any hurry to use the word ourselves, but over in Sweden it has been proposed as a new word for entry into the common language. It means something ungoogleable, but the Swedes apparently think 'ogooglebar' has a nicer ring to it.

Not so if you are Google though, and although the word was first mooted for use in January, it apparently has taken the internet search giant until now to lob in a complaint about it.

Google, like Hoover and Xerox, is vigilant to prevent its trademark name from a becoming a catch-all term for something. In this instance it takes objection that the definition relates to something "that can not be found on the web using a search engine" and wants the definition rewritten to include the word "Google" instead of the generic phrase "a search engine".

Ann Cederberg, director of the Swedish Language Council, gave her response with what must have been a cross between a resigned sigh and a 'whatever' shrug of the shoulders.

She said that the Language Council did not have the time, money or energy to dance with Google over the definition of a word, and suggested that the creations and uses of words are out of both organisations' control. Rather than amend the definition, the Language Council just deleted it.

"We have neither the time nor the inclination to pursue the lengthy process that Google is trying to launch," she said.

"No individual can decide about the language. Who decides the language? We do, language users. We decide together which words should be and how they are defined, used and spelled. The language is the result of an ongoing democratic process."

Google has not yet responded to our request for comment, but it has been told by Cederberg that it does not own the language, and that even the internet will, over time, make it look bad about this.

"Whoever in the future [is] googling on ogooglebar will not only find the wording that Google wanted to change, and that will remain online despite Language Council [having] amended the list. Anyone looking will also find all the possible comments that follow after the news spread that [the] word [was] removed. That is how the internet world works," she said, in a translated version.

She finished with a call to arms to the people to decide on 'ogooglebar'. "Do we want ogooglebar [in] the language[?] [We] will use the word and it is our use [that] determines meaning," she said. "No multinational company with leverage [will dictate to us]. The floor is open!" µ


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