“We are not a verb”, says Google

Posted on September 13, 2017


Google has released a word list as part of its new Developer Documentation Style Guide, and among all the words, phrases and grammatical quirks the search engine does and doesn’t want people to use, perhaps the most surprising is that it would rather people didn’t ‘Google’ something.

Google, sometimes even without a capital ‘G’, is generally understood to refer to the activity of searching on the internet, regardless of whether or not we are actually using Google. However, the California-based tech company is not keen on this, and advises developers to use the term ‘search with Google’ instead.

In the alphabetical list of phrases, the entry ‘Google, Googling’ appears in red, indicating that it should not be used. The entry explains:

“Don’t use as a verb or gerund. Instead, use “search with Google.””

A gerund, if you’re not familiar with the term, is a verb form used as a noun, usually ending with -ing. Examples could be “this drawing is great” or, in the case of Google, “I’ll give that a Googling!”

Google’s reticence in being something we can do is in contrast to a court ruling from earlier this year where a man bought hundreds of domains featuring the word ‘google’, arguing that it’s a common enough word to be used as a general term rather than a trademark. In this case, the U.S. court ruled that Google does own the rights to the verb and that it cannot be used as a generic term for searching the internet.

Perhaps Google is doing its utmost not to become associated with general internet searching, but simply with the use of its own services. After all, we still regularly use ‘hoover’ as a verb even though Hoover is not the most used manufacturer of vacuum cleaners, proving that having a brand name regularly used to describe an action or service doesn’t necessary guarantee that the brand will remain the market leader.

There are several other words Google wants us to kick to the kerb, including ‘uncheck’ (replaced by ‘clear’), ‘administrator’ (favouring the shorter ‘admin’) and ‘application’ (shortened to ‘app’). It also wants us to ‘stop’, ‘end’, ‘cancel’ or ‘exit’ processes and programmes rather than ‘abort’ or ‘terminate’ them.

Google also gives some advice on general grammar, such as not using the ampersand (&) as a substitute for the word ‘and’ in spelling or text, as well as guidance on when to use ‘if’ or ‘whether’. Controversially on this side of the Atlantic, it also favours the use of the Oxford comma.

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.
John Murray
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