Simanaitis Says

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“GOOGLING,” SO TO SPEAK

LANGUAGES ARE living things—and occasionally combative ones. So it was recently when the Språkrådet, the Swedish Language Council, had it out with no less than Google Inc., all over the definition of a new Swedish word, “ogooglebar.”

OgooglebarLong

The Language Council doesn’t officiate over Swedish vocabulary (the Swedish Academy does that), but the council does publish an annual list of new words. For 2012, it included the word ogooglebar, meaning “unable to be found by a web search engine.”

“Ungoogleable,” we’d say in English, were we rash enough to so opine.

Google Inc. objected to ogooglebar. Curiously, the use of the name wasn’t the problem; rather, it was the generality of the definition. Apparently, the company would have been okay with “unable to be found by the Google search engine.” Also, it wanted a line in the listing noting that Google is a registered trademark.

The Swedish crest, Lilla

The Swedish crest, Lilla  Riksvapnet, dates from Albrekt of Mecklenburg, 1365.

According to the Agence France-Press (see http://goo.gl/Y4B8K), Ann Cederberg, the council’s head, responded, “We have neither the time nor the desire to engage in a long, drawn-out process Google is trying to initiate. Neither do we want to compromise and change the definition of ‘ogooglebar’ to the one the company wants.

“Google has forgotten one thing: Language development doesn’t care about the protection of trademarks. Today we are instead removing it from the list,” she said.

Media, especially in the U.S., are making a “free speech” matter out of this and getting all nerdy at Google. I beg to differ.

I believe it makes for a good skämt (Swedish: joke); but I also confess to seeing Google’s point.

To maintain a trademark, a company must protect its use. Ask Hoover about its vacuum cleaners (especially in England) or Band-Aid and its adhesive bandages.

Hoover

Hoover’s logo is renowned throughout the world. To the Brits, though, hoovering can be done with any vacuum cleaner.

Hungarian László Bíro and his brother established Biro Pens of Argentina in 1943. The British Royal Air Force licensed production of these pens for its air crews and, to this day, plenty of Brits call any ballpoint pen a “biro.”

Back in the infancy of amateur photography, there was a time when a “kodak” was the generic name for a camera. And think of all the “walkmans” that never saw a Sony factory.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars limited is particularly protective of its enviable name and image.

Rolls-Royce is protective of its enviable name and image.

It’s said Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited maintains a staff dedicated to guarding against things like “the Rolls-Royce of incontinence products.”  For good reason.

However, this does remind me of a story concerning the fabled motor car manufacturer. Word got back to Rolls-Royce that an apparently very successful North Countryman was transporting his pigs to market in his Rolls-Royce. What’s more, he had replaced the company’s Spirit of Ecstasy bonnet emblem with a sausage ornament.

When Rolls-Royce objected, he said, honestly enough, “T’was pigs that earned it, and pigs’ll ride in it.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013

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This entry was posted on March 27, 2013 by in I Usta be an Editor Y'Know and tagged , , .
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