Seen in this morning’s Herald, in the letters section:

The dreaded use of “absolutely” seems to have abated. Can we now get rid of the lazy linguists’ use of “in terms of”?

Garrett Naumann, Cammeray

But what on earth is he talking about? Do linguists overuse the expression in terms of? Even if we do, is its use considered ‘lazy’? I’ve never heard any such sentiment. Can anyone shed some light on this? I’d be absolutely interested.

Earlier on this afternoon, I heard a cricket commentator, having heard about someone whose name he didn’t immediately recall, promise that he’d google him up. This would not be a natural usage for me, although it’s unequivocally clear what he means; it’s completely synonymous with (in my view) the more natural version to google someone, i.e. to search for them on Google.

Anyway, I started wondering how common the construction google up is, so I went and googled it… up, and here’s a breakdown of the returned hits on all permutations:

  google X google X up
him 106,000 7,510
her 92,900 3,490
them 151,000 11,300
it 5,600,000 513,000

Roughly speaking then, the non-phrasal variety google someone is far more common, but the phrasal variety google someone up has some substantial¹ representation, about a tenth as much as the former.

I didn’t really have anything more to say about it, apart from pointing out that the phrasal verb google up is probably to be expected to occur on the basis of analogy from look up, as in I’ll just go and look them up (in the phonebook). Although curiously, a family member thought it meant to contact via Google rather than to merely find their details, as if on analogy from ring up.

In an age where Google has pretty much usurped phonebooks (of all colours), street directories, atlases, library catalogue cards, encyclopædiae and just about any other source of information, it may as well replace the linguistic idioms associated with them as well.

Holy crap! If someone googled up “Google”, do you think this post would be somewhere near the top?


¹No, doesn’t exist as a URL; it’s just what I use to refer to the act of doing a quick Google search on a phrase using wildcards and quotation marks to back up one’s largely made up postulations about trends in modern English. Think of it as a snowclone, of the template.

I just thought I’d point it out, since last time I used the term, someone (let’s just call him Mr Nash – no wait, that’s too obvious; I’ll call him David N) wondered why they couldn’t find the homepage.

A few weeks back, Joe wrote at Transient Languages and Cultures (which, owing to a historical accident, is acronymised to ELAC), that a page I wrote on the Wagiman language for Wikipedia had been nominated as a “good article”, subject of course, to peer review.

Well as of early this morning, a painstaking month after the initial nomination and two weeks since a review began, I can now announce that the page has earned “good article” status. This means that it’s the highest-rated article pertaining to an Australian language on Wikipedia, and joins 25 other language-related articles ranked as good or better.

However I would hardly think of it as a brilliant article per se; some parts are heavily over-simplified and need a lot more work and in some parts I just chose not to go into detail, but as it’s really just been an exercise in procrastination so far, it’s surpassed any expectations I had.

I’d personally like to see a lot more articles on languages on Wikipedia in the near future, because I think it can be a valuable resource for this sort of thing, provided it’s used wisely. So, linguists and language enthusiasts, get crackin’!


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