Years ago, Yahoo launched a campaign ad that asked its audience, “Do you yahoo?”. Their marketing department was attempting a feat at which Google would soon succeed: Can our company name become a common verb?
Do You Google?
I found its attempt to enter and shape the language interesting and admirable. To shape language is to shape thinking (and visa versa), and the Yahoo writers knew it. But nearly twenty years later, it is Google whose brand permeated the search engine space, and therefore, Google who landed the rights to the verb. “Do you Yahoo?” sounded a bit strange in the ’90s, but “Do you Google?” would now feel like second nature to most users.
And yet, a lingering question remains. Currently, English speakers might use the word Kleenex to refer to any kind of facial tissue regardless of its brand. Do they do the same for google? Can you google Yahoo or Bing? Will my grandchildren someday tell me they are googling through their sock drawers to find a clean pair? Only time will tell.