The First Use of 'to Google' on Television? Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The dialogue is about what you’d expect.
20th Television

Today I learned that, beyond the success Buffy the Vampire Slayer entailed for Joss Whedon—late of Avengers-directing fame—it has a nerdly milestone of its own.

According to Charles Arthur in his book Digital Wars, the first use of to google on television appeared in Buffy. On October 15, 2002, in the fourth episode of the show’s final season, the character Willow turns to the eponymous slayer and asks, “Have you googled her yet?”

The character Xander answers: “She’s 17!” 

Willow clarifies: “It’s a search engine.”

Television history.

According to Arthur, just a few months later, all 60 members of a committee selected by the American Dialect Society voted to google 2002’s most useful new word. Merriam-Webster and the Oxford English Dictionary would soon note the coinage. By 2006, Google’s lawyers—fearful of seeing the company’s name brand watered down to the trademark mushiness of kleenexwrote a post for the company blog outlining when and when not to google should be used. 

“We’d like to make clear that you should please only use ‘Google’ when you’re actually referring to Google Inc. and our services,” it said.

It’s funny, because while Google hastened to decrease its name’s use, rival search engines have tried to increase their own. For many years, Microsoft paid for characters on the show Gossip Girl not only to paw Windows phones and tablets, but also to say “Bing it.” 

Neither company's efforts succeeded. According to a recent EBay-run poll, more than 80 percent of American web users age 18 to 45 say “google it” when they mean “search for it online.” Almost 2 percent say “ask Jeeves.” And not enough people said “bing it,” evidently, for the survey to even report.

Presented by

Robinson Meyer is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he covers technology.

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