Don’t “Google” It

© Viperagp | Dreamstime.com - Computer Mouse And Globe Photo

© Viperagp | Dreamstime.com – Computer Mouse And Globe Photo

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.

About Linda W. Yezak

Author/Freelance Editor/Speaker (writing and editing topics).
This entry was posted in editing, Personal, Writing, Writing Tips and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Don’t “Google” It

  1. Thanks for the reminder. I don’t usually use any in the genre I write, but good to keep in mind nonetheless.

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  2. Interesting thought. Why wouldn’t google want their name to be common use. Isn’t it just free marketing? I agree though, once a word is part of the spoken language it’s pretty hard to control it.

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    • I think it’s like I said–it’s fine to google something as long as you’re using the Google search engine, but once the word becomes a common verb, it signifies the action, not the company/product. Personally, I’m with you. I think they’ve already lost this battle as far as spoken language is concerned.

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  3. I use brand names rarely, mostly because of my genre. Even the corporate sponsor for the PD is sorta a made up–the company is real, but I never saw it spelled until about a year ago, and I figured “why change it now?” So a fictionalized company.

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  4. Reblogged this on Odd Sock Proofreading & Copyediting and commented:
    A fascinating turn of events about name brand verbs.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. K.M. Weiland says:

    That’s crazy. You can’t *buy* the kind of advertising you get from being a household word. Notice how hard Bing is trying, via product placement on TV, to get people to start saying that they’re going to “bing” something? They should be so lucky!

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  6. Always good to be on the safe side of the legal battles and not venture into areas that are too grey. Thanks for some clarification and a reminder, Linda.

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