goo·gle (goo'-gul)

Friday, July 7, 2006

Word came yesterday that the cutting-edge folks at Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary have added "Google" to their lexicon.

Can "computer," "biplane" and "steam engine" be far behind?

The seemingly omniscient Google search engine, beta-launched in 1998, became a word on its own at least by the turn of the millennium. Has any woman about to go on a first date since 2000 not been asked by a girlfriend, "Did you Google him?"

Indeed, Google (correctly entered by Webster's as a vt. ) has become shorthand for "to find out about." Or, more pointedly, "to stalk." The dictionary defines it as: "to use the Google search engine to obtain information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web."

Google, the word, now takes its place alongside the handful of proper nouns that have moved beyond a particular product to become descriptors of an entire sector -- generic trademarks. There is a small price to pay: The product typically loses its capitalization when it ascends into this rarefied etymological realm. Hence, Google becomes google. But little matter. After all, is there another shorthand term for vinyl flooring squares than linoleum? Does anyone make photostatic copies? Of course not. They xerox. No one takes a temperature-maintaining vacuum cylinder on a picnic or plays with a flying plastic disc when they get there.

Now: How long until Webster's gets hip to tivo?

-- Frank Ahrens

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