Google recently got into a row with the Swedish Language Council over a new word in its official language: "ogooglebar" which means "ungoogleable." Google complained about the word, which the council then begrudgingly deleted from the Swedish language. The Swedes did vow to continue using the word in conversation, those rebels.
The Swedish Language Council had included ogooglebar on its annual list of new words that have entered common parlance. It's a fun list that includes words like "brony" and "mossgraffiti" — which is awesome, by the way. Google's objections were actually two-fold. Not only did it remind the council that Google was a registered trademark, the company also ask that the council to revise word's definition to specify that it referred to Google searches. It had been defined as something "that cannot be found on the Web with a search engine." But the Swedes simply deleted the word from the list and included a note at the bottom that expressed their "displeasure with Google's attempts to control the language." Later, Ann Cederberg, head of the council, declared, "If we want to have ogooglebar in the language, then we'll use the word and it's our use that gives it meaning — not a multinational company exerting pressure. Speech must be free!"
It sounds like a classic trademark dispute, but it's hard not to wonder how irked Google was over an official word that highlighted the shortcomings of its marquee product. After all, the company didn't put up a fuss in 2003, when the Swedish Language Council added the verb "googla" — that's Swedish for "Google," obviously — to its list. Why would they care a decade later, when Sweden adds the same word but with a prefix and suffix? "While Google, like many businesses, takes routine steps to protect our trademark, we are pleased that users connect the Google name with great search results," a Google spokesperson explained vaguely. Google is apparently less pleased when users connect the name Google with non-existant search results.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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