April 4, 2013

Googling

I remember the first time I heard someone speaking of googling something. I was already familiar with Google, and I immediately understood the usage, but the incident did give me a start. The verb to google has since become commonplace. Although one could argue that the verb should be capitalized, it usually isn’t, something about which Google should probably be concerned.

Googling jug?
I was even more surprised when I encountered what I thought was a very new word in a nineteenth-century novel, namely, Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Chapter XXIX contains the following long sentence:
The duke he never let on he suspicioned what was up, but just went a goo-gooing around, happy and satisfied, like a jug that’s googling out buttermilk; and as for the king, he just gazed and gazed down sorrowful on them new-comers like it give him the stomach-ache in his very heart to think there could be such frauds and rascals in the world.
My unabridged dictionary does not list google; I don’t know if the usage in Huckleberry Finn was common at the time, was dialect, or was invented by the author. I suspect it was not an invention.

You can amaze your friends by using to google in a sentence in a context that has nothing to do with the Internet.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if Huck's "google" has an indirect etymological relationship to that great English word, "glug." Which was, I believe, the sound Popeye made when downing a fresh can of spinach.

    One of the great things about English language is its fluidity. Read Chaucer, Shakespeare, Twain, Joyce--or Dorothy Parker, or Jack Kerouac or Don DeLillo: it's all play. Deconstruction and new construction. The French Academicians may wring their hands with worry over all those young Parisiennes who plan their recreation for "le weekend," but there is no equivalent body of worriers certainly on the American side of the pond. I remember Howard Hugo back in Berkeley telling his undergraduates: "Make it fresh. Make it new. Make it interesting." Googelicious . . . .

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