Sunday, December 22, 2013

Computer Program Verbalization

Many years ago, when I operated a photocopy machine (sounds funny, but true) at a large legal office in Los Angeles, the Xerox technician would correct us if we dared say the term “to Xerox a copy”, immediately reminding us that the term was to make a Xerox copy.  The reason for this insistence was the fear of over-identification of a company with a process or products, specifically the unique company name would become a public domain item, as in aspirin, originally a specific product.

Today, this concern has disappeared, especially in the software field.  People, including non-computer nerds, regularly google for information, photoshop their picture to eliminate the red eyes, and skype with their relatives abroad, or at least understand what these expressions mean.  Note that these verbs are not capitalized although they are registered trademarks nor does their trademark holder seem upset by their use.

Similarly, social media application developers love that people can icq each other, twitter a message to an athlete or just a friend, or chat by writing a text, not sitting and talking like it used to be.

These extreme successes make developers of other software drool. I am sure the Ways’ new owner would just love to have it replace the verb to gps.  Can you imagine the ecstasy of Microsoft if Windows became a synonym for panacea (like Ford’s Edsel once signified a completely lemon of a car)? Yahoo’s stock would reach the moon if to yahoo something meant provide a complete service.  Not everybody is so lucky, alas.

So, in a world when anybody can rent a limousine or tuxedo and even afford caviar from time to time, the symbol of ultimate success may, rather ironically, be found a two line entry in a dictionary. To paraphrase that Frank Sinatra song, “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere……”


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  2. I don't know about the other trademark holders, but Google is definitely opposed to the use of google as a verb.
    This one's from a few years ago:
    "Google has said it intends to crack down on the use of its name as a generic verb, in phrases such as "to google someone.""

    Their rules for proper usage of their trademark
    include "Use the trademark only as an adjective, never as a noun or verb, and never in the plural or possessive form."