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Googlewhacking is the practice of entering a two word search into Google and getting only one search result. Although the practice of Googlewhacking has not mutated into any derivatives, it has shown evidence of being a contagious behavior which people not only share, but seek out.
Googlewhacking was originally described in this original email from Brooks Talley:
… OK, this is kind of embarassing, but I’ve gotten addicted to looking
for combinations of common words which have the lowest incidence of
appearance on web pages, as indexed by google. So far, I have yet to
find a set of two common english words which do not appear together on
any web pages.
The best I’ve done with three words is “orangutan popcorn fishwife”,
which yeilds only one result. With four and more words it’s pretty easy
to find combos with no results.
FYI; I’m sure you were all anxious about that.
The term “Googlewhack” was coined by Gary Stock in his response to Brooks’ email on January 8th, 2002:
Regarding your habit of googlewhacking (nice triple entendre, eh?): 1: flatness strawberries magnification 1: jeweler parkways pathways 1: florists parkways practiced
…I’d nominate some categories, along with the elusive pure doublewhack: triplewhack with words all the same length; multiwhack beginning with sequential letters (1: applet badger catchy dabble)…
Not fair to acknowledge word lists – too easy to spoof!
Gary Stock created the website Googlewhack.com to chronicle the instances. Currently, Googlewhack.com is keeping a tally of whacks. The page is not indexed by Google in order to avoid disqualifying the over 35,000 terms already collected.
Rules of Googlewhacking
As found on Googlewhack.com.
- 1. The two words (“Googlefactors”) must both appear in Answers.com’s dictionary. If one or both is not a legitimate word, it is called a “Googlejack.”
- 2. A Googlewhack must bring back only one result.
- 3. If the page that contains the whack contains nothing but “a list of words (such as a bibliography, concordance, encyclopedia, glossary, thesaurus, dictionary, domain names, or plain old machine-generated random garbage),” it does not count.
Examples of Googlewhacks
- Ambidextrous scallywags
- Illuminatus ombudsman
- Squirreling dervishes
- Assonant octosyllable
- Fetishized armadillo
- Panfish interrogation
- Disenthralled nimrod
- Elephantiasis rhinovirus
Part of the reason for its popularity could be attributed to Googlewhacking British comedian Dave Gorman. In 2003, he toured the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and France with his live show called “Dave Gorman’s GoogleWhack Adventure” and also wrote a book on the subject.
Also in 2004, New Scientist discussed the idea of a “Googlewhackblatt,” which was finding a single word, instead of a phrase, that would yield a single result. Over the course of that year, several people wrote into the magazine to get their Googlewhacks published.
In 2008, GoogleTechTalks on YouTube posted a video presentation of a study conducted by Jonathan Lansey entitled “Googlewhacks for Fun and Profit.” In the study, Lansey developed a model to describe search result values. They used the total number of indexed Google pages and applied the Zipf’s power law to the word per page distribution and Heap’s law for unique word counts. “Based on data from 351 word pairs each with exactly one hit when searched for together, and a Zipf law coefficient determined in other studies, [they] approximate the Heaps’ law coefficient for the indexed world wide web (about 8 billion pages) to be beta=.52.”
A paper on the subject was published February 2009 in the Journal of Quantitative Linguistics (doi: 10.1080/09296170802514153).
Searches for “Googlewhack” and “Googlewhacking” seem to have spiked just after the creation of Google Insights, experiencing a few peaks and valleys before settling roughly into equilibrium around mid-2008. When Googlewhacking was still a relatively new concept, people had more of an appetite for it, seeking it out. As time has gone by, interest in the concept has faded, but never really died.
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