Friday, October 05, 2007

To google or not to google

John Rickards is deploring the use of the word "google" in current fiction on his blog Empire of Dirt ( I see some of his points, but I think "google" is not really interchangeable with the term "doing research" because it is so specific to a particular means of researching. When used in a story, it conveys a definite image of someone going to a computer and quickly or not so quickly searching for something. It's so descriptive of the age we live in it must be used to describe this action. In my WIP, a character with no research skills at all is able to find someone quickly by goggling her name. It wouldn't have worked as a plot device without that specific means of research. What do you think? Is the term so specific to this time, it will eventually seem archaic? Is it overused already in novels?


Sandra Ruttan said...

I don't think I've seen it often in novels. There are lots of things that run the risk of dating a book, but that's also part of setting the flavour of an era. Would we expect a book in the 50s centered in a high school to reflect anything other than brill cream, poodle skirts, rock n roll and the music of the times? To 'google' something is to put it in the here and now. I don't know... I still listened to 45s when I was a kid. If I set a book in the 70s I'd expect to mention them, and 8 tracks. Does it matter if younger people missed out on that experience? I don't think so, I think they can get a sense of the era through those references.

What seems to be the current reality is melding to the point we currently have no sense of time or culture. Don't refer to thinks that date a book. Hell, the choice of names can date a book. Fifty years ago every other person out there wasn't naming their daughter Mackenzie or Madeleine. Every choice we make will reflect a sense of time. What makes a book timeless is not the lack of such references, but the nature of the issues the book addresses. Certain things - coping with death, grief, loss - are things anyone can relate to. That's what we connect with that makes a story timeless.

Mild detour and rant...sorry.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Good points all.

Peter Rozovsky said...

To google is not synonymous with to do research, and I hope no one uses it that way. Googling is akin to looking up a term in a book's index. Research is what one does after one has found the term.

The Internet, being as free and open as it is, also preserves mistakes and inaccuracies. That's another reason not to fall into the trap of regarding googling and research as synonymous.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Megan said...

I'll be a bit contrary and say googling can be synonymous with "doing research." Typing in search terms, scanning the results, refining the query, and clicking the links all fall under the "googling" shorthand, even if they're not specifically detailed on stage. Similarly, we don't need to see a character consulting the library's card catalog, perusing bibliographies, and cross-checking sources. If we're told she's in the library doing research, we assume that sort of thing is going on...provided the character knows what she's doing.

"Doing research" doesn't necessarily mean that you're doing good research--"don't believe everything you read" absolutely has to extend to electrons. One of the frequent implications of the verb "google" is to get a quick answer to a specific question. The safety of the answer depends largely on the question. And whether or not googling works as a plot device mainly depends on how the writer uses it.

Anonymous said...

If "googling" bothers one, "using a search engine" is wordier but also more explicit and less likely to get litigious folks agitated. "He looked her up, using several search engines."

pattinase (abbott) said...

If we're going to drift away from "google" maybe we also need to explain what a search engine is for future generations. Maybe "research on the Internet" would work.

Anonymous said...

And, as Sandra Ruttan makes clear, you can't help but date your book. He spun the dial of the phone. She buckled her infant into the seat beside her, then turned to start the engine. The cigaret smoke in the plane was visible; the ventilation system wasn't working correctly. He handed out the mimeographed or ditto'd fliers.

He brought up a search engine and began to research the client will probably seem as archaic as He looked her up in the phone book in not too many years, but that's the price verisimilitude.

Anonymous said...

Hm. It's possible you'll have readers who do now or in the future will know what The Internet is and won't know what a search engine is. But that's what dictionaries, in one form or another, are for, if they can't gather the meaning in context.