Say Yes to Googlenopes

The term “Googlenope,” meaning “a phrase cannot be found on Google,” was coined by the satirist Gene Weingarten. If you Google the word Googlenope, you will either have hours of fun or be mildly offended, but that’s not the point of this article. (Go ahead, I’ll wait… okay, welcome back.) Instead, I’d like to point out a few ways in which Googlenopes can be a useful tool in technical writing.

One obvious use is to detect online plagiarism. If you can come up with a plausible, original phrase to insert into a piece you’re writing, you’ve essentially created a durable, flexible hallmark that will carry across any future platform. For example, the phrase that you just read, “durable, flexible hallmark” didn’t exist on Google until this article was published. Or take the phrase, “interlocked software screens,” which didn’t exist on Google until – well, you get the idea. Two or three words should be enough; any longer, and you start to risk the phrase getting broken up by editing. Also, bear in mind that you must confirm your Googlenope in quotation marks, which ensures that the search engine will only return that exact sequence.

A related use is to prove your authorship in a very large organization. If you’re worried about another writer taking credit for your work, I suppose you could hide your name in a screen capture or your image in a photograph of apparatus being documented. You might also mark your territory, as it were, by hiding acrostics in the text, as in: “Document any non-global occurrences, leaving defined spaces throughout each individual node.” (Yes, I’ve acrosticized myself.) These are fun, but they’re extreme examples. It’s much easier to throw a Googlenope or two into your work, and a quick ransack of the shared server will reassure you later on that your hard work isn’t being repurposed without your knowledge.

(Tangent alert: That last sentence was a plug for the amazing and free Agent Ransack software, which is about a thousand times better than Windows Search. Among other things, Agent Ransack will find your repurposed Googlenope in pretty much any file format that it gets pulled into.)

Finally, Googlenopes can help you select realistic but legally safe names for fake users, street addresses, and so on. How many times can the same software manual refer to “John Doe, 123 Main Street, Anytown, USA”? You might prefer using a real name and address, but your legal department might object to, say, “Dan Goldstein, 14528 Woodcrest Drive, Rockville, MD.” Enter Googlenopes: Google assures me that there’s no “Lawrence Miltsher” who would sue your company if you used his name, and if one is born later on, he’s not going to live on “Eveningcall Lane.”

I’ll grant you that none of these uses are as entertaining as Gene Weingarten’s classic Googlenopes (“varsity pinochle,” “plush Osama doll,” and “Hey, this tastes like aardvark”). Still, Googlenoping does have serious uses, and it’s a low-tech (no-tech?) tool that will serve you on any platform. By the way, Weingarten has also coined the Googleyup, but I’ll be darned if I can see a tech writing use for it. Let me know what you come up with.

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