Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Mathematically Offensive

Google has come under fire for keeping an offensive result at the top of the results when people search for "Jew." They've offered an explanation, but it beats around the bush.

The real answer as to why surprising results appear when you're searching for this word -- or the N-word, waffles, miserable failure, or mustache -- is that none of us controls language. Word usage & word meaning evolves, and services like Google can only react.

You don't need to live and breathe Jacques Derrida or Michel Foucault to realize that Google's task will forever be one of catch-up -- in which new and unpredictable linguistic events force them (and us) to react.

Poor Howard Stern is learning about the unpredictable reaction to words the hard way. Howard defined a new word (Blumpkin -- Warning: A somewhat nasty link) on air for his listening public -- in so doing, taking it from the realm of nonsense to the realm of the profane.

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