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The Swedish Language Council, a semi-official body aimed at regulating and advancing the Swedish language, has withdrawn a word from its annual list of neologisms for the first time in its history.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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  1. Anonymous Coward

    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.

    1. Ed_UK

      Re: what's swedish for bollocks ?


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

      1. mhoneywell

        Re: what's swedish for bollocks ?

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

    2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: what's swedish for bollocks ?

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

      Maybe bølløcks? :)

      1. Chris Parsons

        Re: what's swedish for bollocks ?

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

        1. Peter Simpson 1

          Re: what's swedish for bollocks ?

          We have the Pythons to thank for that misconception.

          //the people responsible for the tiles have been sacked

  2. Ragequit


    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.

    1. Blain Hamon

      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.

      1. Tim Worstal

        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.

        1. Philip Lewis

          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.

      2. Seanmon

        Re: huh

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

      3. Matthew 3

        Re: huh

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

    2. frank ly Silver badge

      @Ragequit Re: huh

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

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

  3. Don Jefe

    Speech Must Be Free

    Says the body that regulates said speech...

    1. Lars Silver badge

      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.

      1. t.est

        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.

        1. t.est

          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.

        2. Daniel B.

          @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.

  4. Barbarian At the Gates

    Shedding a few tears over this Google?

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

    1. Gavin King

      Re: Shedding a few tears over this Google?

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

  5. mhoulden

    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.

    1. Steve Knox Silver badge

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

      Google "Santorum".

  6. Steve Knox Silver badge

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      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.

    2. Stu_The_Jock

      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 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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

  7. julianh72

    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?

    1. Mister_C

      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

  8. Bear


    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...

    1. Philip Lewis
      Thumb Down

      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.

      1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

        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".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  9. Lars Silver badge

    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.

    1. ratfox Silver badge

      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.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        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!

  10. southpacificpom

    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.

  11. Eguro

    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: )

  12. Arctic fox

    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".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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'

      1. frank ly Silver badge

        @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?

        1. Arctic fox
          Thumb Up

          @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!

        2. Arctic fox

          @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"?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            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.

        3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          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.

      2. Arctic fox

        @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.

      3. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        'search the innanet and end up with porn instead'

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

  13. Jason Togneri

    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.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. t.est

      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.

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Fihart

    Watch out when you talk about hoovering with that Dyson.

    IP lawyers are listening and they have time on their hands.

    In my wasted youth I worked for a firm which made toys. All our press releases carried a bold type statement that our Matchbox brand could only be spelled with a capital M followed by the circled r symbol (for registered trade mark).

    Did anyone take any notice of that ?

    Course not.

  17. Thomas O

    Not regulating

    Just to clarify things, the department called "Språkrådet" (the Language Council) in Sweden is only documenting the current use of the language. In Sweden there is not attempt to regulate the language or decide what's right or wrong, like there is in for instance France.

    Språkrådet listens to the radio, look at TV, read newspapers, searching the Internet etc. in order to determine what words and expressions that are actually in use and then they document it. Each year they publish a list called the "New word list" where they list new words that has reached a certain amount of popularity and they try to document the meaning of the word. They do not define the words, they just document how it is used.

    If a word continues to be used, it may eventually enter the official Swedish Dictionary that defines the Swedish language.

    1. markw:

      Re: Not regulating

      I think that like the OED the Swedish dictionary describes the language and does not define it. The French Academy is more prescriptive — though not to the extent of banning every interloper and going back to Latin.

    2. t.est

      Re: Not regulating

      This is the reason why you find more "correctly spoken" Swedish in Finland.

      E.g. 18 is "aderton" while sweds have made the slang "arton" official.

      Here is an other very interesting story!08_1250-23/

      Just look at the name of the police car, in Swedish that should be Polis. But here the swedish language is changing radially.

      If you want a laugh translate this page.

  18. Captain TickTock


    in next year's list

  19. FreeTard
    Thumb Down

    Seriously google?

    They cannot control language use, and neither can any company out there. Things like this make me think about no longer using their services. Thumbs down to you google!

  20. Captain TickTock

    ogooglebar is no longer ungoogleable

    that didn't take long

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To the tune of "Oh Canada" (and with some artistic licence...)

    O google bar, O google bar. From all us Swedes, you can go far..

    ..qu(r)ite off the scale, beyond the pale, your lawyers rant, is bound to fail

    O Google Bar, O Google bar, Bing calls me now, I'll say "ta ta"

    (With apologies to just about everyone)

    1. frank ly Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: To the tune of "Oh Canada" (and with some artistic licence...)

      Apology accepted!

    2. Colin Miller

      Re: To the tune of "Oh Canada" (and with some artistic licence...)

      That also works to "O Tannenbaum", aka "The Red Flag", the Labour Party's anthem..

  22. Minophis

    Mmmmmm how odd

    Google didn't seem to mind when OED and Webster's added 'Google' as a verb in 2006. It almost looks like they only object when the word suggests Google not working. But that can't be right, that would be 'evil'.

    1. Ed_UK

      Re: Mmmmmm how odd

      Funny thing is that calling something Ungoogleable is a bit of a back-handed compliment to Google. Like saying "Even the Mighty and omniscient Google can't find it."

  23. Loyal Commenter Silver badge



    Being unable to have advertising impressed or imprinted upon. Incapable of producing profit for Google.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of course they can't decide how words are created and used.

    Just like when you encounter a big smelly google on the pavement: no need to step on it, just walk around it.

  25. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge

    Not a Verb?

    It's not that they are saying that their trademark should not be used in a generic fashion. Try, for example, "I googled it" with Google's translation service. It has no problem rendering it as "Jag googlade det" for Swedes and the Swede-curious. If it is a matter of protecting their brand from dilution, that ship has already sailed... with at least part of Google on board.

  26. Jim Carter

    A Møøse once bit my sister...

  27. M7S

    @ Jim Carter - A møøse bit your sister?

    Realli? They can be pretti nasti you know.

    So can møøse bytes....

  28. ecofeco Silver badge

    Ultimate Grammar Nazi

    Wow. You would think Google would have at least HEARD of King Canute.

  29. Graham Marsden

    Reminds me...

    ... of when McDonalds threatened to sue the Merriam-Webster Dictionary for including "McJob"!

  30. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

    Strange world

    Honestly I don't think Google was expecting anything else than a frank "fuck off". They have to ask for the definition to be amended to preserve their trademark in the US, but that's just that. Once they asked, their duty was done and I reckon the Swedes could have had merrily ignored the request. A language body like that is descriptive, not prescriptive. It describes how words are used, it doesn't make them. There was no reason for the Swedes to step back, nor for Google to try and make them (appart from asking nicely and taking no for an answer). :w


  31. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    O'Google Bar?

    I think I had a pint there once, on St. Pat's Day.

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