Made words

One of the rules for the New York Times Spelling Bee is as follows:

Our word list does not include words that are offensive, obscure, hyphenated or proper nouns.

So you know that if a word starts with a capital letter, it’s not going to be in the word list. This knocks out a lot of words.

Yesterday, just for the hell of it, I tried “google”, since I saw that it had the requisite letters. Sure enough, it was accepted!

Which means, I assume, that google — as opposed to Google — is now a word in the English language. Presumably it is the verb form of the word that is being accepted here: I googled, you are googling, they will have been going to google.

I immediately thought of the Mafia. If you’re a “made man”, then you’re in the club, and your colleagues are less likely to whack you when you’re not looking.

It seems that “google” has now joined the exalted club of “made words”. No wonder Google’s stock has been going up.

4 thoughts on “Made words”

  1. Remarkably, the verb “google” unlike similarly trademarked names that became or at least enjoyed some time as ordinary verbs (fedex, xerox, hoover) is a word that is not generically applied to other search engines.

    When you say “I googled ‘the etymology of google'” the listener assumes the use of Google. I doubt anyone would ever say “I googled ‘the etymology of google’ on Yahoo.”

    Google is such a monolith that despite a lack of competition the verb is nevertheless common and uncapitalized.

    I can’t think of another word whose origin is in a trademark that maintained its brand specificity.

  2. Yes, it’s quite remarkable. It might have something to do with the fact that lowercase google is a verb.

    Which may be why the proper noun “Google” can still be protected.

    In contrast, we do not “bandaid” or “kleenex” something.

  3. But (in the UK) we do “hoover the carpet” even though there are few Hovers still in use.

  4. Yes, that’s an interesting example. I just looked it up. There is quite a bit of discussion on-line about this particular case, as an example of what is apparently called “genericide”.

    It seems that Hoover has de facto abandoned its trademark in the U.K. (presumably because of the usage you cited), but not in the U.S. I wonder whether there is any salient difference in trademark law between the two countries.

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