Verbs: “google” vs. “search for”

Just one run-in with Google today – it came up in conversation, and made me wonder how far to push this experiment without seeming crazy…

It happened over at Duke, where I am a postdoc in the John Hope Franklin
Humanities Institute.  We have a guest this week, a Yale English prof. named Michael Warner, so my postdoc partner-in-crime Jane Anderson and I decided to stop by his office and give him a hearty hello.  I decided to ask him why he used the word “modularity” to describe how social change occurs – he used this term in a talk he gave on Monday, and I happen to be doing some research on the history of the modularity concept, so I figured it would be an interesting ice-breaker.  It turned into one of those sort of wacky free-associating conversations (I am getting into a lot of these when I talk to people about modularity, but that is an entirely different story), and the three of us were somewhat amused at where the conversation was going.  It was especialy funny because although Jane and I are buddies, he doesn’t know us at all and I was worried that my inquisitiveness was crossing some sort of boundary of weirdness that one should respect when dealing with Yale English professors (even though this particular professor seemed very cool).

At one point in the conversation he was struggling to remember the name of an
author,  so he suggested that I just “google” the name of the book.  Jane interjected, half-audibly, “he can’t do that,” but I shot her a “not now” look and luckily she understood.  The last thing I wanted to do was to besiege our poor guest with more quirky half-baked ideas…  He didn’t seem to pick up on that brief exchange, and luckily I avoided having to tell him “I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.”  Luckily (for all of us) he didn’t force the issue; as he continued to draw a blank on the author’s name, he suggested again that I go to the author’s university website and “search for” the fellow.  Phew.

In retrospect, however, I can imagine that an English professor might have some
interesting  things to say about how even he uses “google” unproblematically as a verb.  Maybe tomorrow, depending on how brave I’m feeling.  Stay tuned…



One Response to “Verbs: “google” vs. “search for””

  1. Marching Away from Google | STS Matters Says:

    […] Language. I began to get annoyed that my colleagues and friends were using “Google” as a verb, and that web users had come to […]

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