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back to article Swedish linguists nix new word after row with Google

The Swedish Language Council, a semi-official body aimed at regulating and advancing the Swedish language, has withdrawn a word from its annual list of neologisms for the first time in its history. Why? Pressure from Google. As Swedish newspaper The Local reports, each December the Council publishes a list of words that have …

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FAIL

what's swedish for bollocks ?

"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 .."

Translation: We'll use the word in secret .. behind Google's back .. snickering all the time because we don't dare make it official. Google would be mad at use and we're no longer Vikings, just a bunch of frightened little girls.

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Re: what's swedish for bollocks ?

Skolbocks

(Thanks to Hale & Pace "The Bollocks Song").

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Re: what's swedish for bollocks ?

Ironically, according to Google translate you only have to capitalise the word "bollocks".

Maybe bølløcks? :)

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Headmaster

Re: what's swedish for bollocks ?

Probably not, as the slashed o is not used in Swedish.

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Happy

Re: what's swedish for bollocks ?

We have the Pythons to thank for that misconception.

//the people responsible for the tiles have been sacked

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Re: what's swedish for bollocks ?

I don't think it's acceptable under any circumstances to thank Hale and Pace for anything.

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Meh

huh

Mixed feelings. I don't really know trademark law so I don't know how legit google's stance is. I figured that trademarks, like patent law, merely had a provision to protect prior language (or art in the case of patents). That way someone couldn't trademark a common everyday word. The reverse happening is a little bizzare at first glance. If a product is too successful it endangers it's own trademark because it becomes a common term? Of course this is US law. I'm sure it differs somewhat worldwide.

I suppose it somewhat encourages companies to pick unique names and I suppose some would see this as just deserts for any company who's services become such a monopoly that it's name becomes the name of the tech.

Of course it's every search engines wet dream to have the brand recognition google has. So I'm sure microsoft would take exception to 'obingbar' as well as Yahoo to 'oyahoo!bar'.

As much as I'm for free speech I question why the Swedish linguists really have to add what amounts to slang to their dictionaries. But then I suppose that's what a linguists do to try to stay hip in an age when everybody relies on spell check a tad too much.

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Holmes

Re: huh

"The reverse happening is a little bizzare at first glance. If a product is too successful it endangers it's own trademark because it becomes a common term? Of course this is US law. I'm sure it differs somewhat worldwide."

This is why Xerox insists that using their systems is to photocopy, not to xerox. It's called genericized trademark, and has happened in a number of countries. Aspirin in UK and US (although that's also due to the 1919 Treaty of Versailles), and Hoover in the UK. And yes, it does differ from country to country.

As to why the linguists are adding it, slang is a very rough draft to the next iteration of speech, and the job of a dictionary is to define a word to help people understand each other. A dictionary that doesn't include newer words to help with understanding is only useful if the language is dead.

Also, if you want to make someone from Google cringe, tell them you use Yahoo! to google things up.

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Happy

@Ragequit Re: huh

"... try to stay hip ..."

I wish you wouldn't use slang in your comments dude.

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Re: huh

Quite. Can't remember whether it was bic or biro that used to keep writing to the newspapers insisting that it should be Bic or Biro. But that's what they were doing, trying to maintain the trademark.

Interesting factoid: the spell checker in these comments boxes says that bic and biro are wrong, but that Bic and Biro are OK.

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Holmes

Re: huh

From memory.

Bic is a company, named after the family who founded it. Baron Marcel von Bic* was the head at the time of the invention of the throw-away ballpoint pen. Their product, more or less unchanged since then is called the Biro.

Bic also made a fabulous success of the disposable razor.

* He tried to win the Americas Cup several times, and failed miserably, but with panache.

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Re: huh

I quite often ask for a McWhopper in Burger King. No reaction yet.

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Re: huh

So 'Heroin' lost trademark status because Bayer stopped protecting it?

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Meh

Speech Must Be Free

Says the body that regulates said speech...

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Pint

Re: Speech Must Be Free

Speech is always free in this meaning and annoying for those who, for some reason, try so hard to keep the language free from foreign words. The French and many other "small" (sorry) language groups have been rather keen on this. A uphill battle everywhere. The Swedish Language Council apparently does not belong to the maddest "keep the language clean" group as they accepted the "ogooglebar" word. Why they did not give a shit about Google (the company) is slightly beyond me. I love, apart from IT, languages, English is my third, German number four and rather poor. I don't speak Russian but as a rather "big" language I find it very typical that potato is kartoffel and sandwich is butterbrot in Russian. Why invent the wheel again and again. Language is in fact damned interesting.

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Re: Speech Must Be Free

Your very correct in your assumption about Sweden.

In fact Swedes don't really speak Swedish anymore. Even words from the Turkish language has become recognized as Swedish.

As a non swede with Swedish as my first language I clearly see this happen. In fact Swedish is better "preserved" outside of Sweden in countries that do have Swedish as an official language than it is in Sweden.

The other small languages like French that are paranoid about their language is Icelandic and Finnish. I really can't say what the situation is with Norwegian. The funniest part of it is that Norwegians and Finns sometimes communicate better in Swedish with each other. Than they do when they try to communicate with some swedes.

This word, ogooglebar, would not have been possible some years ago. But as the language did use "o" to reverse the meaning of the originating word, they decided this is possible for any word, just some years ago.

E.g. "lika" means "similar" or "alike", olika means the revers unalike or unsimilar. But that where individual words. Today you basically can put an "o" in front of any word to reverse it's meaning which is pretty rubbish considering the language. But that's only in Sweden where slang becomes the official language.

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Re: Speech Must Be Free

Typo correction:

But as the language did use "o" to reverse the meaning of some of the originating word, they decided this is possible for any word, just some years ago.

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Facepalm

@t.est, you forgot Spanish

Spanish Spanish (that is, the variety used in Spain vs. the zillion variants in Latin America) is incredibly anal on language paranoia. They go as far as fudging words just to make them "fit" (such as "whiskey" becoming the eye-watering "güisqui") or try to put out some lame invention to "replace" the real word, like "sorting machine (ordenador)" instead of "computadora (computer)" or "balompié" instead of "fútbol (football)".

Other "minor" offenses are fudging spelling, with "cuásar" instead of quasar, but a lot of these are less intrusive than the previous examples.

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Joke

Shedding a few tears over this Google?

Here's a Kleenex, wipe those tears away...

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Re: Shedding a few tears over this Google?

Just don't throw them on the floor -- I just hoovered it.

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Facepalm

The danger of trying to control language this way is that people don't always use language in the way that lawyers want them to. A mayor of Paris introduced a law saying that landlords must provide rubbish bins for their tenants as a public hygiene measure. They complied, but then named the bins after him, which is why they're called poubelles. If Google tries to push their luck too much, they may find that "ogooglebar" doesn't mean "unsearchable", but instead something obscene and not particularly complimentary, just as Gerald Ratner did.

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For US readers looking for an example of this...

Google "Santorum".

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Joke

Actually, it was removed for a much simpler reason

One of the requirements is that neologisms must be in common usage, but searching for ogooglebar on the internet (a common test for common usage) returned nothing.

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Meh

Re: Actually, it was removed for a much simpler reason

Although you have the "Joke Alert!" icon, it sounds as if you are serious. Either way, Google shows it's true nature. Google has too much money and time on their hands.

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Re: Actually, it was removed for a much simpler reason

But did you tell Google to search SWEDISH language sites only for the word ? Much as "jernbanen" won't find many results on an English Google setup, it will find more when told to check in Norwegian. . .

B.T.W. "på norsk" the word would be ugooglebar. (Norwegian Google find that) as does the swedish google.se find links to ogooglebar BUT you have to remind google to search for what you typed, or they try to force you to see searches for googlebar . . ie their toolbar. Yet another case of Google trying to control what results we see based on what THEY want not what WE search for.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Actually, it was removed for a much simpler reason

Google hasn't got a fucking clue abut languages. Everything they do related to languages is fucked up.

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WTF?

Since "ogooglebar" is in fact found by conducting a Google search for "ogooglebar" ...

... isn't this the 21st century philosophical equivalent of debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

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Re: Since "ogooglebar" is in fact found by conducting a Google search for "ogooglebar" ...

I think it may be closer to the definition of recursion. As in

Recursion: See recursion

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FAIL

Newspeak

We no longer have august institutions failing to control the development of language, such as L'Académie française, we have multinationals. One advantage that multinationals have (apart from lots of money) is trademarks.

Also must refer to Orwell and Whorf about language controlling thoughts... so the Chocolate Factory should just google off...

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Re: Newspeak

I read Whorf and I found his analysis of language and its relationship to the thought process and why, to be very unsatisfactory indeed.

Just saying.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Newspeak

so the Chocolate Factory should just google off...

Now *THAT* would be an interesting experiment - using google in exactly that way. It would be interesting to explain this to some people on Twitter and Slashdot and see what happens.

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Re: Newspeak

I read Whorf and I found his analysis of language and its relationship to the thought process and why, to be very unsatisfactory indeed.

True, most of what he proposed has been discredited. Still, he makes a mean "Gagh".

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Flame

To google

I think "to google" for something is rather common in many languages in some form. In Swedish it would be "googla". Google should be happy about it. Some similar examples in earlier messages. ogoolebar is a rather silly construction i Swedish in my mind.

Is perhaps Google taken over by lawyers now. Pity, indeed, and stupid as hell. Shame on you Google.

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Alert

Re: To google

It is an unfortunate side-effect of American trademark law. If Google does not formally go through the motions of stopping people from using Google as a generic term, Microsoft might start a search engine named "Google 2.0"… Because if the term is generic, anybody can use it.

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Facepalm

Re: To google

More or less.

If the term has become genericised, it means it's in common usage to meaning a class of products.

That still doesn't mean Electrolux can call a particular model of vacuum cleaner a "Hoover", just that consumers are going to use that term to search for it.

The fun of trademark law is that if Electrolux did try calling a new model that, Hoover would have to formally request them to stop as otherwise they could lose the Hoover trademark.

Not seeing how that relates to new words in a dictionary though, probably just lawyers trying to justify their retainer - who have now Streisanded themselves!

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Holmes

Words, words, words...

We all know that the word "Google" is derived from the word Googol which is the mathematical term for the number which represents the yearly total tax avoidance for US corporates worldwide.

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So Google has to act, in order to retain their trademark under US law (although demanding that the meaning and usage of the word, comply with their desired definition is idiotic)

The language council simply wants to post the list of new (interesting?) words that have been tossed around. Rather than spend time and budget on a silly fight with Google, they simply scratch the word and go "meh, the word will survive not being on our list"

And the fact that this is news-worthy means that the word will already be getting a lot more attention than it probably would have otherwise.

Language council wins by TKO.

They've also claimed victory:

"If Google knew how language works, they would've known that they don't get to define the language, and the word will spread as a result of this debate. The word wins, not Google" (taken from: http://www.svt.se/kultur/amne/sprakradet-stoppar-ogooglebar-1 )

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Headmaster

Mountain View's postion borders on the idiotic. It is in the nature of success with..........

.........a service or a product that the word enters the language (often as a verb, sometimes as a noun) whether the company concerned likes it or not. Thermos anyone? Hoover? Photostat? Xerox? Roneo? Their only legitimate beef IMHO is if someone attempts to launch a similar product and use terminology involving the name "Google".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mountain View's postion borders on the idiotic. It is in the nature of success with..........

@Arctic Fox - Oddly enough, the reason Google got involved was to prevent someone launching a product involving their name. They lose claim to it as a trademark if it enters common usage, in this case Google would become the generic term for 'search the innanet and end up with porn instead'. If the Swedes had added the word then there's a chance someone could have started a business helping people 'google the un-googleable'

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@Nicho re. 'google the un-googleable'

I think we should use the excellent Swedish word, 'ogooglebar' so the expression becomes 'google the ogooglebar'. This can be used to mean a futile search or effort, done with good but naive intentions.

e.g. "Larry, stop googling the ogooglebar and do something useful.", or, "Oh, poor Mary, she's always googling the ogooglebar."

Let's make a serious effort to use and spread this?

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Happy

@Nicho I take your point, however I believe they are on a hiding to nothing.

The verb "to google" has already entered most forms of English and, like the Hoover Company, I think that they are on a loser here in the longer term.

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@frank ly re. 'google the un-googleable' I think that is an excellent idea. In fact I think......

.......that I will introduce the term to my Norwegian colleagues. It would only take a minor spelling change to Norwegianise it. Let me see now. Masc/fem: ugooglebar. Neuter: ugooglebart. Plural form of adj: ugooglebare.

Yes, I think that will do very nicely!

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Happy

@frank ly Re: @Nicho re. 'google the un-googleable' It just occurred to me.......

...........that you could probably set it to music as well. How about the melody from that ancient old Andy Williams hit "To dream the impossible dream"?

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'search the innanet and end up with porn instead'

I. do. not. understand. 'instead'.

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Re: @frank ly @Nicho re. 'google the un-googleable' It just occurred to me.......

that you could probably set it to music as well. How about the melody from that ancient old Andy Williams hit "To dream the impossible dream"

I like it, but I would suggest Laurie Anderson's "Oh Superman" as it is just as annoying as the whole issue.

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Re: @Nicho re. 'google the un-googleable'

"I think we should use the excellent Swedish word, 'ogooglebar' ..."

Swedish? I think you'll find it is English now.

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Stop

I'm just surprised that nobody has apparently noticed that this use of "Google" in a word has a meaning of "something which can't be found via an online search", but with specific links to Google since it's part of the word. Thus, it's implied that "something which can't be found via Google" which in turn implies that other non-Google search engines might be more useful. If I were Google, I'd be most unhappy that my name was being used to hint that I was unable to perform my primary function, while there is no mention of my competitors being equally as useless.

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Anonymous Coward

Simply, words are how they are used. There is no other definition process. There is no magic council of wordsmiths forging new words, only approval councils accepting what is being used. You cannot simply apply pressure to some authority in order to change the will of the people. To google is how people use it ungoogleable is how I am going to use it.

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Well, partly agree, but on the issue there is no wordsmiths I would like to protest.

Many of the words you find in Finnish where maid up only to be able to translate the bible to Finnish. So wordsmiths they have for sure existed. Whether they are rare or extinct I do not know, but I think it would be the former.

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