Language is not set in stone. A malleable form of communication, it evolves along with changing attitudes and behaviors — things that are increasingly influenced by our techno-driven world. That is, as long as no major companies come along to oppose it.
Case in point: When the Swedish Language Council tried to add “ungoogleable” to its official 2012 list of new words, Google took issue with it. The popular slang term — “ogooglebar” in Swedish — would describe anything that couldn’t be found online using a search engine. But this was too generic for the company’s preference. It wanted the word to specifically describe its own search engine and no other.
Like smaller tech companies often discover, locking horns with Google’s lawyers isn’t fun. Council head Ann Cederberg says it simply took “too much time and resources,” so it yanked the word from the official list.
Was that an ego play on Google’s part? Is the company so nitpicky it was willing to split hairs, making much ado about nothing? (After all, how many of us ask for a Kleenex when we mean tissue, or use Xerox for photocopy?) Well, it actually makes more sense when you look a little deeper. The company’s concerned with protecting its brand, it’s very name. If “ungoogleable” becomes an official word with a generic definition, then any other company might be able to use it as part of its identity, tagline or product brand name. Think of it this way — zipper and aspirin were also proper names once upon a time.
And so, as much as the Swedes may love to use the word “ungoogleable,” it seems that for now anyway, it will remain firmly in the people’s vernacular and out of its dictionaries.