Google stole my name! Google etymology revisited –

Google Etymology derived not from Larry Page but from the mind of a 10-year-old boy

In 1979 I turned 10 years old. It was an age devoid of home computers. If you were really posh, you owned an Atari games console (we didn’t!) WordStar, the world’s first true word processing program was launched in 1978 about the same time the first home-based computers were finding their way onto the market. These early computers were just rudimentary games machines. Even the Sinclair ZX81, the home computer that changed everything, wasn’t about to arrive for another few years and the World Wide Web was merely a glint in Tim Berners-Lee’s eye.

Of course, if you mention the word ‘Google’ today, everyone knows what you mean. It has even earned its place with a new definition in the Oxford English dictionary:

Google Etymology

verb
[with object] informal

  • search for information about (someone or something) on the Internet, typically using the search engine Google.

But here’s the interesting part about that definition:
Origin: 1990s: from Google, the proprietary name of a popular Internet search engine

‘Google’ as it’s known today

I have news for the Oxford English dictionary and for Google… That name has its origins long before the 1990s! Back in that misty-eyed era of 1979, the fertile imagination of a young boy invented an entire new species of alien. They were a little family, purportedly from the planet Mars, and the lad needed a galatic-sounding name for them. The Google aliens were born and they were my childhood creation. My intentions were grand; To make a comic book featuring the family heroes. But how far can a small 10-year-old boy living in a provincial village go with such heady ideas? As one would expect, they frazzled to nothing and the Google family were resigned to my family’s loft sometime in the mid-80s.

You’re probably wondering how I came up with the name? Alas, those details are sketchy. Thinking back, it’s possible I may have heard of a googol, which at the time I probably understood to mean a very large number. Perhaps not knowing how to spell it, I named my family ‘Google’ – But to be honest, I can’t really remember. My childhood imagination was pretty vivid, so it’s more likely I just made it up. I needed an ‘alien’ sounding name and Google fit the bill perfectly. Imagine my surprise in the 1990s when my little family from Mars became a worldwide phenomenon in the form of a search engine! The dictionaries failed to consider Google was around long before the search engine empire.

The Google family formed the earliest creations behind my film-making of today – drawing cartoons and even little comics. The picture here is the earliest sketch I could find from 1979.

1979 Google Family from Mars (click to enlarge)

So here we are over thirty years later. Search-engine Google have made billions from the name whereas I have made nothing whatsoever from it… Not even a nickel! Just goes to show there’s a snitch more money in online search engines than childhood drawings from an era long, long ago!

Well, who knows… My drawings probably form the earliest existence of the word ‘Google’ – That in itself might be worth a few bob in a few years!

14 Responses to “Google stole my name! Google etymology revisited –”

  1. Enid Blyton coined the term ‘Google buns’ to go with Pop Biscuits in The Magic Faraway Tree, 1942. It is a bun with a currant in the center – this currant is filled with sherbet!

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  5. George says:

    I remember when I invented the word back in the 20’s, we were all having a good time, in those days we used to call it googling around

  6. CR Beverly says:

    Long ago when I was a child long ago I used to read a newspaper comic strip that was called Snuffy Smith and Barney Google. Mr. Google owned a low-peforming race horse called Sparkplug. As I recall, Barney Google had rather prominent protruding eyes. I am not saying that the search engine people stole the Google name, but that word Google was around a long time before anyone ever imagined a search engine.

  7. Braden Best says:

    In all seriousness, Google got their name from the number googol (10^100), coined by a 9-year-old in the 1940’s.

    In fact, let me quote the section from The Free Encyclopedia:

    Page and Brin originally nicknamed their new search engine “BackRub”, because the system checked backlinks to estimate the importance of a site. Eventually, they changed the name to Google, originating from a misspelling of the word “googol”, the number one followed by one hundred zeros, which was picked to signify that the search engine was intended to provide large quantities of information. Originally, Google ran under Stanford University’s website, with the domains google.stanford.edu and z.stanford.edu.

    • Nelson says:

      Let’s not lose the perspective, it is not “Google” what matters, it’s the ENGINE and its conception what made Google great. It could have been called any other way and still, people would have incorporated its name, part of it or something related into their language. At the end of the day, we, people, are who create and modify the language.

  8. Grace says:

    Here is a coincidence perhaps. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” copywrite 1979, mentions a (fictional of course) computer named: Googleplex Star Thinker . . . . Chapter 25, page 168 in paperback.

  9. Jatinder says:

    Hi i think have coocked up the entire story and i find no substance in ur claims.I m sure u want to make some quick
    nickles

  10. Ali Powers says:

    Hi Kris,

    There was a book published in 1979 called Google or The Google, I’ve been trying to track it down for a few years now. It’s possible you saw it one day in a bookshop or library but didn’t fully register it?

    I’ve only ever seen it one time in a bookshop in Buxton, and wish I’d bought it at the time. It had wonderfully odd illustrations of the creature, but that’s all I could tell you.

    Hope that fills in the blanks a bit?

    Ali.

  11. Ali Powers says:

    There was a book published in 1979 called Google or The Google, I’ve been trying to track it down for a few years now. It’s possible you saw it one day in a bookshop or library but didn’t fully register it?

    I’ve only ever seen it one time in a bookshop in Buxton, and wish I’d bought it at the time. It had wonderfully odd illustrations of the creature, but that’s all I could tell you.

    Hope that fills in the blanks a bit?

  12. Lily Adamson says:

    I’ve been trying to contact school mates from my 1972-73 maths class from Simon’s Junior High School in Pomona, California. We were in Mrs. Sally Sinclair’s 7th grade class and she presented the class with the challenge/project of finding a name for a 1 followed by 100 zeros. I didn’t participate as I wasn’t particularly interested, but other classmates did. Before the class was over they had written Google on the board, which I thought was a stupid name. I remember one boy spending a long time trying to fit all the zeros on the board. Whether they’d heard it elsewhere or not, I don’t know. But that was the first time I heard the word and have always associated it with the number.

  13. Ian Budd says:

    Amazing but I wonder if you had heard Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy which was broadcast in the UK first in 1978 and contains the word Googleplex when describing a particular super-computer.

    Like your picture! Best wishes,

    Ian Budd

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