Swedish Language Council: Sorry, Google, we’re not changing a dictionary word for you

googleHere’s a word you won’t find in the Swedish dictionary: “Ogooglebar.” It’s not because that’s not a real Swedish word, or because the official bodies in charge of deciding what does and doesn’t make it into the dictionary say it’s not worthy of attention. Instead, you can thank Google for demanding that the word’s generally accepted meaning be amended more favorably to the company.

To slightly backtrack: Ogooglebar really is a regularly-used word in Sweden. It’s roughly translated to “something that cannot be found on the Web using a search engine,” and it was under consideration by the Language Council of Sweden for addition to the latest edition of the country’s official dictionary following increased use within last year… until Google became involved.

The search giant reportedly learned of the word’s possible inclusion in dictionaries and, somewhat surprisingly, didn’t ask that it be excluded for using the company’s name to define a failure of its core product. Instead, the company’s legal department asked that the official definition of the word be changed to remove the generic “search engine,” favoring instead the new definition “something that cannot be found on the Web using Google.” Oh, and if a trademark could be added to ensure that people knew that Google was a trademarked term, that would be great too.

Rather than acquiesce to Google’s request, the Language Council decided to simply drop “ogooglebar” from consideration for inclusion altogether, it announced on Wednesday.

The decision “[marks] our displeasure with Google’s attempts to control the language,” director Ann Cederberg said in a statement explaining the Council’s decision. “One purpose of the neologisms list is to show how society and language development interact with each other. Google wanted to amend the definition and add a disclaimer about its trademark. The Language Council has tried to explain the purpose of the list.”

She continued, “The definition the Language Council provides has been formulated based on how the word is used in Swedish. We have neither the time nor the inclination to pursue the lengthy process that Google is trying to start. Nor will we compromise and change the meaning of ogooglebar to what the company wants.”

Google’s problem, Cederberg said, is that the company “has forgotten one thing: language development does not care about brand protection.” Google, unsurprisingly, disagrees, with a company spokesperson saying that the company is simply protecting its trademarks. “We are pleased that users connect the Google name with great search results.” Did Google forget the word is about things that can’t be found using a search engine?

Given the sadly now-unofficial fate of ogooglebar in Sweden, it’s the responsibility of every Internet user to adopt the term to describe the failure of search engines and keep the term alive internationally, despite what Google wants. Get on board!


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