Officially speaking, “ungoogleable” is no longer a legitimate word, according to a recent decision by the Swedish Language Council.
The council opted to remove the word from its official list after facing legal pressure from Google, who didn’t actually want it removed from usage. Google lawyers actually took issue with the definition of the word, which initially was listed as something that couldn’t be found using a search engine. Google wanted that definition to specifically refer to Google’s search engine. That makes sense because it’s an awesome marketing benefit to Google, but not if the term can refer to Bing or Yahoo.
Instead of changing the definition, the Swedish Language Council decided to just drop it from existence — something that was easier than tangling with lawyers, paying legal fees, and attending court for a few months.
“If we want to have ogooglebar [aka ungoogleable translated from Swedish] 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!” council head Ann Cederberg told Swedish news site The Local.
You may be wondering why Google cares, and it likely comes down to protecting its copyright on the term “Google” in its various incarnations. If a word is considered common usage within a language, Google could lose its right to decide who and how “Google” is used, which is obviously something it’s not going to let happen. If Sweden had changed the definition, Google could still claim that it owned the usage since it specifically refers to the company. (So in other words, this isn’t just a case of Google being a huge a-hole.)
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