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Sweden axes new word after Google intervenes

26 Mar 2013, 11:53

Published: 26 Mar 2013 10:21 GMT+01:00
Updated: 26 Mar 2013 11:53 GMT+01:00

In December, the council unveiled its customary annual list of new Swedish words. Among the words that Swedes had begun using in 2012 was "ogooglebar" ('ungoogleable').

The California-based multinational soon got into a huff, asking the council to amend its definition. But the language experts refused to bow down to the demands, instead choosing a third option - removing the term altogether.

"Instead, we're removing the word today and stating our displeasure with Google's attempt to control the language," Language Council head Ann Cederberg said in a statement.

The word was to be used to describe something "that you can't find on the web with the use of a search engine", according to the Language Council.

SEE ALSO: Top ten new Swedish words of 2012

However, Google was less than thrilled that a word based on its name had been highlighted by Sweden's "official language cultivation body".

Google wanted the council to specify that the word's definition only covered searches performed using Google, and not searches involving other search engines.

SEE ALSO: Ten Swedish words you won’t find in English

The move marks the first time the Language Council has removed a word from its annual list, but the Swedish wordsmiths don't think the word's removal means it should be removed from the language itself.

"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!" Cederberg said.

According to Cederberg, the Language Council could have compromised with Google's requests, but decided to instead spark a debate.

Story continues below…

"It would go against our principles, and the principles of language. Google has forgotten one thing: language development doesn't care about brand protection."

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Your comments about this article

09:19 March 26, 2013 by inertia666
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
09:26 March 26, 2013 by hipersons1
I can see Google's point with this even though it seems ridiculous on the outset. It comes down to trademark/copyright law. It's the same reason why Xerox ran adverts in the 80s to encourage people to call it a 'photocopy' instead of a 'Xerox' even if it comes from a machine made by Xerox. When a trademarked name becomes a common word even for similar services/product not produced by the company that holds the particular trademark, it lessens the legal strength of that trademark.
09:52 March 26, 2013 by Opinionfool
Thank god that English has no equivalent of toadying language control freaks. We google information all the time. Presumably the only thing that is ungoogleable with Google (other search engines available) is any criticism of Google and their attempts to control language as they are trying to control the world web site.
10:03 March 26, 2013 by Logic_and_Reason
In case you ever questioned the notion that corporations rule the world, when one dictates what a developed nation like Sweden can put in its own language, you know we are all screwed.
12:04 March 26, 2013 by comfreak
I think it's a bit much that Google thinks it's up to them to decide what is a word and what is not. I am pretty sure that they think "googleable" in contrast, is a word, right? So the antonym belongs in the dictionary just as much!

Google, try telling the Oxford English Dictionary to erase the word Google. If you get as much response as a gently raised middle finger, you should be lucky.
12:08 March 26, 2013 by johan rebel
They removed the word to state their displeasure?

Sounds more like a bunch of yellow cowards to me.
14:05 March 26, 2013 by sparc
@johan rebel: Actually I agree with the council that maybe removing was the best choice, all things considered.

A definition constraints the use to a certain set of bounds and allows one to say "You are using this the wrong way". Google could have started a whole issue, trying to indirectly alter the definition even if the council disagreed. For one, google translate is used by a huge amount of people as a dictionary; simply by setting source and target languages the same.

Removing the definition allows the word to exist and evolve naturally without control and definitive influence. No one can dictate its use if there is no formal definition. It means what the majority wants it to be.
15:50 March 26, 2013 by jporinchak
Speaking as a US trademark attorney, I think you Swedes are dilutional.
17:17 March 26, 2013 by Rishonim
Ann Cederberg; Who's your daddy?
20:42 March 26, 2013 by Opinionfool
@comfreak

Glad you suggest the OED. One of the earliest citation to Google as a verb is from ... wait for it ... be patient ... Larry Page! He did that on July 8 1998 in an egroups mailing. Why then if it's good enough for Page shouldn't the rest of the world use it too.
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