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So ungooglably yours

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It was just a short piece on the radio the other day, about how some people take pains to make themselves invisible on the Internet. They don't use their real names in chat rooms, the writer for Wired News explained to the NPR host; they don't join clubs that put their newsletters online. If they do run across themselves on the Internet, they may tweak their names to slip out of reach of the search engines.

The term used to describe these people cloaked in privacy is "ungooglable," or, as Wired rendered it, "unGoogleable." (My own preference for a word being absorbed into the vernacular would be to lowercase it and drop that middle "e." Google's lawyers are probably not happy with any of this.)

As Ann Harrison wrote in Wired News:

"As the internet makes greater inroads into everyday life, more people are finding they're leaving an accidental trail of digital bread crumbs on the web - where Google's merciless crawlers vacuum them up and regurgitate them for anyone who cares to type in a name. Our growing Googleability has already changed the face of dating and hiring, and has become a real concern to spousal-abuse victims and others with life-and-death privacy needs."

"Ungooglable" is one of those words that people understand completely the first time they hear it. And it encapsulates, all in a single word, the ubiquity of Internet search engines, particularly Google; the need some people feel to escape them; and the way a corporate name can morph itself from a proper noun to an active verb.

And so quickly: The company is less than 10 years old.

By contrast, the humble English word "ship," as a common noun - very common indeed in the language of a seafaring nation - goes back to the early 8th century. But the oldest citation the Oxford English Dictionary gives for "ship" as a verb in the sense of sending or transporting (goods) by ship dates from 1436: "Saffron, quiksilver ... is shipped into Fflaundres fulle craftylye."


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