Sweden Drops ‘Ungoogleable’ From Word List After Google Protests

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A spat over the term “ungoogleable” has prompted Swedish language officials to ditch the term from its list of new Swedish words.

While it might seem like everything is searchable on the Web, there are apparently a few things that the Internet has not yet indexed, prompting the word “ungoogleable” – or “ogooglebar” in Swedish.

But while Google has become synonymous with Internet search for many people, it is not exactly a generic term. So Google wanted the Swedish Language Council to specify that “ungoogleable” referred to something not available on Google, not search engines overall, and that Google is a registered trademark.

The language council did not take too kindly to that request, accusing Google of trying to control the Swedish language.

“Google has wooed [the] Language Council to amend the definition of the word ogooglebar the new order list,” the council said in a translated statement. “Today we instead delete the word and mark … our displeasure with Google’s attempt to control the language.”

The council publishes its list of new words every December in an effort to demonstrate how society and language has developed over the previous 12 months. Google argued that use of its name must include a reference to its trademark, but the council said that would defeat the purpose. The list, it said, reflects how people in Sweden are using the language in new ways – and that might incorporate trademarked words.

“No one can define words which must be in the language,” the council said. “Language development [does] not care about brand protection.”

Still “we have neither the time nor the inclination to pursue the lengthy process that Google is trying to launch. Nor do we compromise and change the definition of ogooglebar [to what] the company wants,” the council said. “It would go against our principles.”

The council pointed out that even though it is removing “ungoogleable” from its list, the term will live on (and be “googleable”) in part because of the news coverage of its battle with Google.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

By Chloe Albanesius, PCMag


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