Google – in French

Trademarks are always adjectives. That is the first thing I learned in trademarks class in law school. Take that as a given. Trademarks are always adjectives. By corollary then, trademarks are never verbs.

Enter GOOGLE®. GOOGLE is a search engine that prowls the internet and Finds Things with reasonable efficiency, and it is very popular. So popular, in fact, that the name of the website and company — Google — is now defined as “to search for on the internet.”

Whoa. That’s a verb. Notice the infinitive there? “To search…” That must mean that the word being defined is a verb. “To google.” I hear “google” being used as a verb in common parlance all the time: “I googled myself” instead of “I ran a GOOGLE® search on myself.” It’s shorter. It’s easier to say. It’s wrong.

By making the mark synonymous with that which the mark is meant to identify, the English speakers of the world have admitted the verb “to google” into the English language. English does that. It gloms onto new, interesting and fun words and simply swallows them whole. It did that with aspirin, cellophane and escalator. It’s doing that with XEROX® and KLEENEX®. And, it seems, English is glomming onto GOOGLE®.

French, on the other hand, does not glom. The French language is governed and controlled by a group of word scholars in Paris called >L’Academie Française. These etymologists examine every new word that comes their way to see if the word is eligible for admission into the French language (don’t ask me about the standards they use; run a GOOGLE® search on “l’academie française” and find out for yourself). Therefore, when a new word makes it into the French language, it’s a pretty big deal.

Regardez ici — that means “Look here” for you non-French-speakers — and see what has happened in French. I even heard a rumor from a French-scholar client of mine that it’s officially listed by L’Academie.

Wow. The French have admitted “googler” (pron. “goo-GLAY”) into their language. Is this admission based on usage the death knell for the GOOGLE® mark? After all, if a mark comes to mean what the product or service is, the mark can be challenged as being generic. Even fanciful marks can turn generic with usage: the list of these is long. Escalator. Cellophane. Aspirin.

Stay tuned.