Google tells Sweden that “ungoogleable” is not a word

Sweden defines the term as anything that cannot be found on a search engine

Topics: Google, Sweden, ungoogleable, words, dictionary, Language, ,

In 2002, “google” was so entrenched in our vernacular that it became the “most useful word,” according to the American Dialect Society. In 2006, it was awarded entry into the Oxford English and the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionaries, elevating the neologism to a formally recognized word that became an eponym for Internet search.

It was only a matter of time, then, that someone would try to push “ungoogleable” as a word (though really, is there such a thing?). The Swedish Language Council tried to do just that when it created its annual list of “top 10 new words which have become popular in Sweden to show how society and language are changing,” according to the BBC. The council defined “ungoogleable” (“ogooglebar” in Swedish) as anything that cannot be found by using a search engine.

But Google has historically taken issue with generalized uses of the term, citing trademark concerns and arguing that the term “google” should only describe instances in which the Google search engine is used.



And so “ungoogleable” never made it to Sweden’s list of new words because Google asked the council to remove it. “I don’t want to be influenced by a company, but this was the only way to solve the problem,” Ann Cederberg, head of the Language Council of Sweden, told the BBC. “We could not go to court. The only way was to remove the word from the list and tell the world what happened.”

The council’s Web site boasts a message of linguistic empowerment that now seems a tad ironic: “Who decides language? We do, language users. We decide together which words should be and how they are defined, used and spelled.”

Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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