Just Google It: A Short History of a Newfound Verb

Google, verb, did instantly seem like a fragment of verse we’d needed since the information superhighway of the 1990s first threatened us with vertigo. A brand reaches its apotheosis when it slips into the vernacular as a generic noun—Band-Aid, Kleenex, even Dumpster. Anyone else’s dad still say “Dempster Dumpster,” for the brothers who patented it in 1939, and alas, aren’t around now to copyright Dempster Dumpster Fire? To become a verb is even less common. “To Hoover” for “to vacuum” comes to mind. “To Skype,” meaning to make a video call, shows modest promise, but since video chatters need to agree on software, it’s unlikely Skype can ever stand in for FaceTime or WhatsApp. The rare tech company to achieve verbal dominion over a whole category of digital experience is of course Google , with “to Google.” Larry Page used the verb form two months before the company launched in September 1998. The cutie-pie locution showed up on a listserv for Google-Friends when the search engine lived at http://google.stanford.edu/. (Don’t bother; it’s too late to join Google-Friends.) After a brief update to his new product, Page signed off to his merry crew, “Have fun and keep googling!” His company’s […]

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