Mouse Potato Googles Spyware

Cultural changes are captured in time when a word or expression moves from slang to adoption in standard dictionaries. So, what’s news in our culture? Google is now a verb.

To google and googling have been added to this year’s new words for Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. The standard use will be to use the words in lower case, although the upper case is provided in the dictionary’s etymology of the word.

Google, the company, is concerned about the dimming of its own brand name as the word “google” becomes ubiquitous for online searching no matter which search engine one uses. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) added Google as a verb in its new list on June 15, but kept the word in the uppercase. (Google wants to avoid those who drink a coke while xeroxing their kleenex.)

I wonder how this will play out in other languages. It was not that long ago that the French government rushed to defend world literature from Google’s plan to digitize books because of the implied bias for books in English. (Word to look out for in 2007, from the French press: “omnigooglization.”)

Will “google” be rejected as another American-generated expression for use around the world? Or, will “google” be accepted in our new reality of an online world: a world of direct communication, and one without borders?

If you are struggling with whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, look at history. In Merriam-Webster’s first edition (1806) of words to move from American slang to dictionary acceptance, the list included: debit, presidential, and publicity.

In Ancient Greek philosophy, something did not exist until it was named. Just imagine what our world would be like if we did not have these three signifiers.

On the other hand, that same edition also added a word we celebrate: surf!

Maybe history will show that “google” is not the most significant new entry this year. The other new words and phrases for 2006 include:

  • aquascape
  • big-box
  • drama queen
  • labelmate
  • manga
  • mouse potato
  • polyamory
  • qigong
  • ringtone
  • sandwich generation
  • soul patch
  • spyware
  • supersize
  • unibrow

A KadmusArts prize goes to the best entry using all of these new words and phrases in one paragraph about the arts festival life.

- Bill Reichblum

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