From today's paper
Googlewhack game is good for your brain
By Kim Grizzard
COX NEWS SERVICE
I knew all those SAT vocabulary review lists were good for something. I just didn't know what.
They're good for googlewhacking.
Before you break out the dictionary, you should know that googlewhacking has nothing to do with striking with sharp, resounding blows various species of myrrh trees that yield fragrant gums (which, by the way, would be "googul whacking").
"Googlewhacking" isn't even found in the dictionary. It's a made-up word for a made-up game played on the Internet. Players go to the search engine Google.com and type in two-word combinations, hoping to score a single hit.
You're probably thinking, "That's easy. You can go to Google.com and type in 'possum flatulence' and get a hit."
Which is exactly the problem. No matter how wacky the phrase, it's not hard to find something on Google.com. But it's next to impossible to find only one site reference that matches your search.
For example, "possum flatulence," which is actually a googlewhack attempt my editor made a few weeks ago, yields 911 hits. How about "spider suffocation"? 18,300 hits. "Weasel lips"? 156,000 hits.
Ten or 15 minutes into my googlewhacking career, I had come up with about a dozen good names for a band. But I was nowhere near a googlewhack.
I decided to take a more personal approach, so I typed in "bugsy grandma," a nickname that our 5-year-old son gave to our dog. More than 3,600 hits.
I broke out the dictionary and tried "googol" (a word arbitrarily coined by American mathematician Edward Kasner to mean the number 1 followed by 100 zeros) plus the word "nut." More than 500 hits.
Googlewhacking is as addicting as it is frustrating. Even working on a deadline, it's hard to resist the temptation to type in "skydiving kudu," just in case (471 hits). Then, while you're already in a Google search, you go ahead and try words based on your knowledge of math ("rancid quadrangle," 689 hits); science ("hydrochloric invertebrate," 3,870 hits); and history ("stagecoach cannibals," 537 hits). Before you know it, 20 minutes have passed.
You break out the dictionary and dig deeper, trying "volvulus pallium" (my personal best at 54 hits). On "konohiki nilgai," I got nothing. Zero hits is somehow better for your ego than 156,000 hits, but it's still not a win.
There are a few rules to googlewhacking: no proper nouns, no quotation marks in your search and no made-up words. (Words used must be found in a dictionary or online at dictionary.com.)
A recent article in the Boston Globe quotes a couple of experts as saying that googlewhacking is actually good for you. One of them called it "excellent exercise for many brain centers."
If you're good at crossword puzzles, you could spend hours googlewhacking before you score a single hit. If you stink at crosswords, it could take months.
Don't try this at work. The only reason I got away with googlewhacking on the job was because my research was critical to this article. Even then, my boss had a sneaking suspicion that I had probably gone overboard, and it was time to cut me off.
But if you're a teenager, it's a different story. You can probably go online and googlewhack for hours. Just tell your parents you're reviewing vocabulary for the SAT.
I'm off to see what I can find....