One of the fun things about being an editor–and I am one, in case you’ve forgotten–is trying to keep up with the ever-changing lexicon. Because of television and technology, we have new words thrown at us all the time. (Even though it’s not new, I just recently learned what TARDIS is.)
Editors have to stay on top of things, like when a client is using a trademarked brand name as a verb. Google is the perfect example. Even my 83-year-old mother asks me to “google” things for her. But according to “Google Calls in the Language Police,” the company isn’t too happy about the way their name is becoming a common household word. You can search the Internet using the Google search engine, but you can’t “google” anything.
Personally, I’m not sure I understand that. If someone wanted to go shopping for romance novels, I’d love it if they’d go yezaking. “Let’s go yezaking and find something good to read.” Yeah, I’d like that–assuming whatever they bought had my name on the cover. Which, I guess, is the point of angst for Google. I tend to google things on Yahoo’s search engine. No particular reason. I’d use Google’s too. Whichever. I’m not picky.
The way I see it, though, Google is fighting a losing battle, at least as far as spoken language is concerned. But we editors have to protect our clients from using brand names casually. Therefore, whenever their characters xerox something, we protect them from Xerox and have their character copy it instead. When they reach for a kleenix, we hand them a tissue. When a character asks for a Coke and he means Dr. Pepper, even here in the South where that’s a common occurrence, we pop the top of a soda can. One never knows when the head honcho at the corporate legal department will read the novel I just finished editing and explode lawsuits all over my poor client (who then will likely jump on me).
The in-house editor of one of my novels so avidly deleted brand names–even when they weren’t used as verbs–that she edited out a name I invented myself. Many authors, myself included, use brand names in our works. Chain restaurants, car brands, popular running shoes. I’ve heard that Disney and Walmart aren’t too crazy about the practice. I’ve also heard that if you use a brand name and let the company know, they may pitch in and help advertise for you, since it also promotes them. So frankly, I don’t know whether or not it’s okay to use these common, household names. But I do know it’s never a good idea to turn those names into verbs, at least not until it is such a part of the lexicon the threat of a suit is non-existent.