What Was Google Thinking?

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The Google logo, February 14, 2007

Just how silly is Google? Its search interface offers translations into Klingon, Elmer Fudd-speak, Pig Latin — even the lingo of the Muppets' Swedish Chef. On past April Fools' days the site has pitched Google Gulp, a drink to make searchers smarter, pigeon rank, a system whereby pecking order would determine search results, and Google Romance, a satirical site boasting a sizzling "soulmate search." The web giant has even playfully offered jobs on the moon.

So when the search engine giant put up a Valentine's Day logo on Wednesday that seemed to read "Googe.com" — featuring a chocolate-covered strawberry for the "g" — bloggers thought it was just a bizarre bungling of the holiday Google "doodles" that decorate the site's logo throughout the year. Or perhaps it was a quirky romance-laced joke? The Puget News blog noted that 'Googe' might be a subtle reference to the 16th century romantic poet Barnabe Googe, famous for the line, "I did but see her passing by, and yet I love her till I die." Or maybe it was a secret shout out to Debbie Googe, bassist from a group called My Bloody Valentine?

Another theory questioned the site's copy editors. Just that morning, The New York Post had spelled "Obama" as "Osama" in a major headline. Although the world's most popular search site did goof on its German Web address recently — briefly forgetting to renew the domain name — it turned out that "Googe" was neither a joke nor an error. It was artistic license, Google-style.

"The green stalk [on the strawberry] is indeed the 'L'," Google spokesperson Laura Ainsworth wrote in reply to a quizzical site visitor. "This is a new and edgy design and I think it looks fab — I hope you agree."

While Google employees joked about the logo internally, a spokesperson insisted that "true romantics will always read it as 'Google.'" To account for poor spellers outside its ranks, Google maintains Gogle.com and Gooogle.com, but not Oogle.com or Googe.com. Maybe now that will change.

"When you look at the logo, you may worry that we forgot our name overnight, skipped a letter, or have decided that 'Googe' has a better ring to it," Google's Webmaster and official doodler Dennis Hwang wrote on a company blog in response to the blogosphere's blather. "None of the above. I just know that those with true romance and poetry in their soul will see the subtlety immediately. And if you're feeling grouchy today, may I suggest eating a strawberry."