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Let Me Google That – How Our Vocabulary Has Changed in the Digital Age

Back in the day, before computers, we used books. Remember, those things with words printed on paper? Dictionaries, thesauri, and – wait for it – encyclopedias. Now our lives have been made faster and easier (open to opinions) with the digital age. We can look up baseball stats, find old friends, and order a pizza, all in a matter of seconds, and usually from a handheld device like a smartphone. Thomas Edison has nothing on T-Mobile.

With the introduction of these digital devices into our lives, our vocabulary has slowly changed. I’m talking about brands and services that have now become verbs. It’s really kind of fascinating when you think about it. When things were introduced before, say, the phonebook, we never used to say “Oh, let me Yellow Pages that.” But we have managed to incorporate brands into our everyday language, as normal to use now as “LOL” or “BRB”. Here’s a list of the most common ones.

Google is probably the most common brand that has become a verb. Have a question about your computer? Google it. Need the address of your doctor’s office? Google it. Want to know something about anything at all? You get the idea. Google is the most popular database for fact-finding that’s out there.

Wikipedia is an extremely large collection of user-generated content. It works like an encyclopedia, except people can edit the posts, which can lead to erroneous (and sometimes just outrageous) information. Advice: don’t use it for your history report. But if you want to find some useless information about a celebrity, you can Wiki it and you’ll find pretty reliable information.

Yelp is probably one of the most used apps I have, aside from google. When you want to find out what’s close to you, you Yelp. Food, entertainment, activities, pretty much anything you can think of. It includes information about the place, and user reviews. You can also write reviews to help others in their Yelp quests. One of the more functional brand-verbs out there.

With it’s recent IPO (epic fail), Facebook has been in the news a lot lately. But for those of us that have been using it since it became available in 2004, the action of Facebooking is a normal activity. We use it when gossiping: “Guess who Facebooked me the other day!” Or when talking about sharing what we’re doing: “Oh, I totally need to Facebook this.” Everything in our daily lives goes on Facebook, which has generated the verb out of the name. I actually wrote a post about this a few months ago, completely unrelated to this, but check it out anyway.

Ah, YouTube. Probably one of the most entertaining sites out there. Search for any video, and you are able to find it. Generally within minutes of it even happening. For example, celebrity snafus like Madonna tripping in the SuperBowl halftime show. Or, entertainment like The Bed Intruder song. Or, user generated content like my best friend Sam’s channel. Whatever you’re looking for, you can YouTube it and you’ll most likely find it.

With new technology emerging all the time, I’m sure we’ll have more brand to verb words in the future. I’m interested to see how our language evolves in the future.

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