Did You Mean?

Did You Mean?

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Updated Mar 05, 2014 at 12:06AM EST by Brad.

Added Mar 03, 2014 at 04:19PM EST by Molly Horan.

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“Did You Mean…” is a search engine function that scans for potential spelling or grammatical errors in user queries and recommends alternative keywords, similar to the autocorrection feature found in mobile messaging services. While the feature is designed to assist users in refining their search results, it has been frequently exploited by Google search users for comedic purposes.


It is unclear exactly when the spell-checking function was first introduced, but Google has been widely credited for incorporating this feature into the search engine during its early years, which in turn led to an instant doubling of the site’s traffic. One of the first mentions of Google’s “Did you mean?” function can be found in a personal blog post written by Steven Garrity[1] on October 17th, 2002, in which he brings attention to a glitch in the algorithm that mixes up the Microsoft database management system “MSSQL” with the open-source management system “MYSQL.”


In early 2003, Steven Lerner of Albino Blacksheep[3] created the first known parody of Google’s “Did You Mean” feature with a mock-up search results page for “French Military Victories,”[22] which would prompt an error message that read “Your search – French military victories – did not match any documents. Did you mean French military defeats?” Lerner’s tribute to the long-running joke about the perceived incompetence of the French military quickly became a hit, racking up more than 50,000 hits in less than 24 hours of launch.

Creating fake “Did you mean?” screen shots became popular in the mid-2000s and became even more popular with the rise of social media sites like Myspace, where it was easy to share the fake screen shots.[5] On November 15th, 2009, online game site Kongregate[8] published a round-up of notable Google “Did you mean?” suggestions titled “101 Funny ‘Did you mean’ Google stuff-ups.” Sometimes “Did you mean?” suggestions gave way to more serious discussions. On October 23rd, 2009, news and culture site Salon[7] published a piece that pointed out when “bad fathering” was searched on Google the searcher was asked “Did you mean: bad mothering?”

Notable Examples

Did You Mean: Recursion

In 2009, a Google Easter Egg was discovered; if a user searches for the “recursion” Google will ask “Did you mean: recursion?” sending the searcher into an endless loop. This is a computer science joke, as recursion is computer science word defined as, “A recursive process is one in which objects are defined in terms of other objects of the same type.”[6]

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