To Facebook or Not To Facebook

One of the most common drivers of new words is technology. It is a subject to which Wordability will often return.

For my opening gambit though, I am going to spurn the obvious. Currently, I think the obvious is Twitter and the plethora of tweeps, twebinars and retweetings which it has spawned. Loath as I am to send you off somewhere else, the BBC recently published an admirable account of some of these developments, though please don’t think of following that link until you have finished reading this.

No, my current interest is technology words as verbs. Now this may not sound like a particularly enthralling avenue to go down, but come with me. Because it is actually fundamental for showing us which branches of technology have established themselves as the de facto standard. It is the linguistic rule by which we can see which brand has won.

If you think I am overstating this, think about the ubiquity of Hoover or Xerox. Everybody knows that these are brand names that have become the standard verbs to describe the act that they perform. When a brand name has triumphed to become the verb of choice, then it’s game over.

So where has the battle finished in the current technological world? I think Sky has been victorious in the world of home recording. ‘To Sky Plus’ now seems to have become the accepted phrase for recording television on any Sky Plus style box. Sky wins.

When it comes to altering images with a computer, we ‘Photoshop’ them, whatever software we have actually used. Go Adobe.

And when we search on the internet, we all know that these days we ‘Google’ for stuff, rather than search for it. In fact, you only have to look at what came before for a clue as to why Google was always going to win this battle. ‘I Yahooed myself’ conjures up an entirely different set of images altogether.

But Google could be about to become embroiled in a linguistic battle to come. It will be one which will really show us who’s boss.

There is much discussion online about whether Facebook can be used as a verb. A friend of mine commented on Facebook recently that he was watching a film while ‘Facebooking’, and then wondered whether it was really a verb.

Well, I think it is, but I think it currently has quite a specific meaning. ‘To Facebook’ is very much to use Facebook itself, to look at it, and to contact someone via Facebook. ‘I Facebooked that girl I chatted to on the bus last week’ makes sense, even if it is socially suspect.

But Facebook has not become a generic verb to describe all types of social networking, and this is where Google enters the fray. Google Plus is the company’s answer to Facebook, and the next few months will give us a clue as to whether it can halt the Zuckerberg express. And I think that linguistic usage will provide us with a clue as to how that battle is playing out.

Because it will only be when we use ‘Facebook’ or ‘Google Plus’ as a verb to describe any act of social networking that we will we truly know which technological monolith has come out on top.

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7 responses to “To Facebook or Not To Facebook

  1. Nice post! I’ve found facebook is trying too hard, people liked it because it was a simple way to stay in touch, and share photos. Now that there are games, stupid groups to “like” and with the “all new” look that notifies me 30 times if a friend was tagged in a picture i’ve had enough. I’m finding people are getting tired of it and only keeping it for basic messaging and photos. That’s all i use it for now anyway.

    As for sky, well having lived in my own flat for the first time and not having a TV licence, I can tell you now, it is a blessing. It makes you get out into the world and do things, you don’t waste your time watching mindless drivel.

    The software stint such as Photoshop can be solved with opensource – GIMP is the equivalent of Photoshop, granted its got different controls but its just a case of getting used to it. There is tons of opensource software, especially if you use Linux…which i will do a post on soon.

    As for the google/facebook competition here in Britain I have seen little enthusiasm for google+ as everyone just sees it as being the same, which it is essentially.

    Please come check out my blog, I only made it today and would be interested to have your opinion.

  2. Co-incidentally, I was asked today by my boss to find a certain document in a certain file, and “Zerox” it for him. I had to admit that although I knew he wanted me to make a copy, I was not really familiar with the term “Zerox”. In all my many, many years of working in offices, a photocopier has always been called a photocopier, and so far as I am concerned always will be!

  3. I’ll let you know when I first hear of someone being ‘Google Plussed!’ Twitter was smart to invent (well, repurpose) a verb to describe their activity. “I tweeted him” sounds less clunky to me than “I facebooked him”….

    PS. My word of the week is ‘neutrino’. I know it’s not new, but I wonder how many millions of people heard it for the first time last week…

  4. Pingback: iLanguage: How Steve Jobs Changed English | Wordability

  5. Pingback: Amazeballs to Zhoosh: Collins’ First Fruits | Wordability

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  7. Pingback: How To Ungoogle The Dictionary | Wordability

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