The word "ogooglebar" has been struck of the Swedish Language Council's 2012 list of new Swedish words. Photo: Anna Lena Ringarp/Sveriges Radio

Google sways language council over "o-word"

The word ”ungoogleable” (in Swedish "ogooglebar") is not only a tongue twister, it is also no longer considered to be proper Swedish. The Swedish Language Council has removed it from their list of new Swedish words, following pressure from Google.

The National Language Council is an official body that monitors the development of spoken and written Swedish.

This is the first time that it has decided to remove a word that is already on the official list. And the reason why they did it is raising eyebrows in Sweden.

“We did it after a long exchange of e-mails with Google’s lawyers,” the head of the language council, Ann Cederberg, told Swedish Radio.

She said that the lawyers tried to influence how the Swedish authority defined the word “ungoogleable” – and particularly the description of how Swedish people define it.

Radio Sweden called Google's legal representative in Sweden, Petter Rindforth. He has communicated extensively with the Language Council about the company's objections, but referred all press inquiries to Google itself.

In this year’s list the word is defined as ”something that you cannot find on the web with a search engine”. Google’s lawyers generously pointed out that Google is not the only search engine on the internet and that “ungoogleable” can only apply to their service.

A fair point perhaps, but many are left wondering whether a multinational company should be allowed to have such a big say in how Swedes use their language.

Ann Cederberg says that the language council did not give in right away.

“We tried for as long as possible but it took too much resources from other work,” she said.

“And the word does exist in Swedish. It’s up to language users, not the language council, to choose whether or not it stays and how its defined,” she added.

“So the word is there. Us it if you want to. Google has no say in that”

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