Googling "stupid"

Let the mockery and humiliation begin.

Published October 27, 2006 8:07PM (EDT)

In July, I wrote an item on the horribly misconceived effort by the founder of Freecycle to dictate how people used the word "freecycle."

My post began thus:

Imagine if Google's home page included an admonition to would-be searchers never to use the word "google" as a verb, as in, "I don't know the answer to that question, let me google it for you." Such effrontery would be roundly mocked and promptly ignored. It would also be dumb. Don't you want your brand name to enter the common lexicon? You can't buy that kind of public relations.

Today I learned from John Battelle's searchblog that on Wednesday Google did pretty much exactly that.

While Google doesn't flat out order people not to say things like "I googled the word 'dumb' and came up with this page on how to use the word 'google,'" its intent is clear: control of how its name is used in the common lexicon, not by business competitors, but by its own users.

Yes, I know, trademark law demands that Google defend its name with all its might lest it be doomed to the fate of thermos and cellophane. But it doesn't make the company any less ridiculous or patronizing.

Or me any less wrong, a few months ago.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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