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Google takes on Sweden in fight over the word “ungoogleable”

Google’s lawyers take on Swedish linguists in a debate over the meaning of the Swedish word “ogooglebar.”


Kevin Morris


Google has insinuated itself into languages across the world as its name has become the de-facto word for “searching something on the Internet.” But the search giant doesn’t like it, fearing the word will become as generic as zippers and elevators—in other words, detached entirely from the brand. Now Sweden has become the first battleground in Google’s war on google.

After Sweden’s language council added the  “ungoogleable” to its word of the year list, the company released a gaggle of lawyers. They’ve been braving the nordic winter to argue that the word (ogooglebar in Swedish) should only refer to an item that can’t be found on Google itself and not the Internet at large. The company splurged so much on legal time and resources, in fact, that the language council gave up. But rather than meekly acquiesce, they simply cut ogooglebar from the list entirely.

“We’re removing the word today and stating our displeasure with Google’s attempt to control the language,” language council chief Ann Cederberg said in a statement.

She had a few more choice words for the search giant, however, which we prefer to imagine she delivered while slathered in blue war paint and facing a bloodthirsty mass of cheering Swedish linguists.

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

Try as you may, Google, you will never take their ogooglebar.

H/T The Verge | Photo by Robert Scoble/Flickr

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