In the dictionary or not?
Thread poster: Oana Ladariu

Oana Ladariu
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:11
Apr 4, 2008

Everyone using the internet has is familiar with search engines. In fact they are so popular that a particular one has mutated into a verb. More often met in US English, the term “to google” is very appealing to the general public. However, its lawyers want to keep the word out of the dictionaries, because they say it should represent a brand...
What is you opinion on this matter?



Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:11
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
They are afraid that im will become a generic term Apr 5, 2008

but whether they want it or no - eventually it will become one of the synonyms of online research, to many people it already is.



Irene Schlotter, Dipl.-Übers.
Local time: 04:11
English to German
+ ...
Too late! Apr 5, 2008

Hi Oana, I think this is too late by now.

Anyway, this linguistic development ist not a novelty - just think of 'to hoover' (derived from -> Hoover; brand of vacuum-cleaners). Using the verb you are referring to does not necessarily imply the use of the named search engine but rather using any search engine's corresponding search function in order to find relevant results. Also, this development does not only affect the English language but also other languages - both in Spain and in Germany the verbal form is now widely used in the same sense as the English one.

The proprietors should have protected the name and any compounds, adjectives or verbal derivates. Apparently THAT is possible - even phrases of fast food giants such as 'I'm loving it' can be trademarked nowadays (even though grammatically complete nonsense).


Local time: 04:11
Dutch to English
+ ...
Too late Apr 5, 2008

As far as I know, in Belgium, the term "googlen" (to google) is already a very common verb in universities.

I think their apprehension will not change anything to the fact that it will at some point become a familiar term. For me, why not put it in dictionaries?


Kathryn Litherland  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:11
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
lawyers lost Apr 6, 2008

"Google" in the verb sense is included in most on-line dictionaries. Early on (2002 or so) Google tried to fight to keep it out, but as of 2006 the word did begin appearing in dictionaries.

My personal sense of how people use it is that it has not not yet been genericized--in other words, when people say they "googled" so-and-so or such-and-such, they mean they performed a search on Google, not on Yahoo's search engine or or any of the other alternatives.

here's a neat trick: google "search engine" and see how far down in the search results the actual main google page appears ( appears significantly higher, in fact). I wonder if they skew the results to rank their page intentionally lower just to avoid the appearance that they are favoring their own product.


PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:11
English to Polish
+ ...
To google Apr 7, 2008

"This word doesn't google well" = There aren't very many reliable instances of this word found by Google.



Danuta Loetz  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:11
German to Polish
+ ...
localised by now! Apr 22, 2008

Not only is 'to google' commonly used in speaking and writing, which is reason enough why it should be entered into dictionaries, but it has localised versions as well. In Polish we have a transitive verb: "wygooglować coś", and, funnily enough, in most cases it has retained its English spelling, though one sees increasingly often its transliterated version "wyguglować". But as far as I can say both are considered non-standard, thus could only be included in a dictionary of slang or colloquial expressions.


Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:11
French to English
+ ...
Trademark law Jun 2, 2008

Interestingly, European trademark regulations (and I suspect in other jurisdictions) *does* specifically mention use of trademarked terms in dictionaries, stating that upon request of the trademark holder, dictionary publishers must in the "next edition" of the dictionary indicate that the word is trademarked. (In the case of an on-line dictionary that is continually updated, I actually don't know what a "next edition" is.)

The regulations don't provide for the argument that a dictionary is an attempt to document usage, and that speakers may *use* a word as though effectively it is not a trademark.

I've actually had first-hand experience of this issue when I was contacted by a trademark holder (at a company considerably bigger than me!) requesting that I amend an entry in my own on-line French-English dictionary. Possibly against good lexicographical judgement, but mainly to avoid the risk of setting an expensive legal precedent, I amended the entry. Unfortunately, I think many dictionary publishers (I'm not sure that even OUP seriously want a legal fight with Google) will similarly be afraid of being bullied by lawsuit-hungry giants, and so this slightly unclear status of trademarks in dictionaries may remain unresolved for a while.


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