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Not Barney

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Cissy Feehan writes:

"I see that google is now in the dictionary as a verb meaning 'to use the Google search engine to obtain information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web.' But where did the search engine get the name? Does it have anything to do with the old comic strip character Barney Google, he of the goo-goo-googley eyes?"

Cissy is no chicken, clearly. Not many people can remember Barney Google, who was, as she says, the hero of a long-ago comic strip. And of a song inspired by the strip; that's where the line about the "goo-goo-googley eyes" comes from. Barney was a banjo-eyed little fellow who owned a less-than-successful race horse named Sparkplug. Sometime in the 1930s, a hillbilly associate of Barney's named Snuffy Smith was introduced into the strip, and in a few years' time, Snuffy had taken over. The Snuffy Smith comic is still around.

But we've drifted away from the subject, perhaps because I find comic strips more interesting than search engines. No, Barney Google had nothing to do with the high-tech Google. According to Wikipedia, "The name 'Google' originated from a misspelling of 'googol,' which refers to the number represented by a 1 followed by one-hundred zeros." Techies tend not to be good spellers, and vice versa.

Now here is an example of comics and technology working together to enlighten mankind, or at least me. In the "Get Fuzzy" strip, I read "Satchel, there's no reason to fear mothmen, even if they do exist. ... Being part moth nerfs an otherwise potentially scary mutant."

Unfamiliar with this usage, I turned to the on-line Urban Dictionary and found the verb nerf: "To weaken or make less dangerous. Taken from the 'Nerf' brand name, which makes sports equipment toys out of a soft foam (e.g., the Nerf football is soft foam rather than the hard leather of a real football). Used frequently in the context of computer game balance changes.

" 'The chaingun was awesome til they nerfed it, now you can't hit s*** with it.' "

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