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August 25, 2017

"google" as a verb was coined by George Ade in 1922 — and Gene Weingarten has proof


For his March 1, 2012 "Below the Beltway" column in the Washington Post magazine, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner drilled down and brought to the surface the following discoveries, surprising and heretofore not well known:

So, imagine my surprise when I got an email from a reader named Ed Lloyd, who had happened upon "google," used as a verb in a collection of short stories published in 1942. In a story called "Blessedness" [complete title: "The Joys of Single Blessedness"] humorist George Ade wrote this: "Charley Fresh — who regards himself as the irresistible captivator — googles his way among the girls for six nights a week and is known as a 'lady's man.'"

From context, Ade appears to be using "google" to mean "unctuously ingratiate oneself with the opposite sex." No such definition appears elsewhere, so we may credit George Ade for coining "google" as a verb; he wrote that in 1922, three-quarters of a century before Google existed:

Screen Shot 2012-03-04 at 10.54.33 AM

Weingarten then paused to reflect on how ironic it would be if other, especially unseemly, uses of the word antedated Google's 1998 founding, and wrote:

"Google" first appeared in print in an 1856 music review, used to portray a horrible sound. The writer described a certain aria being performed thus: "A gradually modulating howl, a squeal, a squall, and a guttural google-google-google, a deafening bawl like the hoarse whistle of a locomotive engine when under full headway, a queaky wop, wop, wop...."

In the 1800s, a "google" was apparently a derisive nickname for an Adam's apple — most often the Adam's apple of a hog, something of a delicacy, when cooked and eaten with turnip greens, by American hicks.  

In 1921, the august Journal of the American Medical Association, writing on neurasthenia — then a term for hypochondria — reported one patient's complaint over what appears to be a fart: A sensation "moves in the right flank, passes up and across the abdomen, returns backward, crosses again, and finally escapes with the sound 'google, google'!" 

Larry? Sergey? Bueller? Anyone?

[cartoon up top by Eric Shansby]

August 25, 2017 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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