Saturday, August 02, 2008

Word of the Week: Cuil

Those of you who’ve been paying attention to the news the past few days will have seen this word. It’s the name of a Internet search engine that debuted this week. I first saw a reference to it in the letters section of the Toronto Star. I hadn’t seen the original news story to which readers were responding, but I gathered from the letters that this is some new search engine that was/is hoping to go head-to-head with Google.

What I didn’t know when I read the letters was how to pronounce it. As a result, in my mind, I “heard” it as separate letters: C-U-I-L. (In other words, I didn’t sound it out.) Well, since then, I’ve seen/heard more news stories about it and I've learned that apparently it’s pronounced “cool”. A cute (if annoying) play on words, I thought.

Well, before sitting down to write this, I thought I better look it up, just in case it’s really a word. (Or very similar to, or inspired by, a real word – kind of the way Google is – arguably – inspired by: googol, which (according to is the figure 1 followed by 100 zeros equal to 10100.) As I suspected, Cuil is not listed as a word on (Interestingly, as of today, it’s not listed on WordSpy either.)

Curious about this new word and new search engine, I went on to see whether it explained the genesis of the name. According to them, “Cuil is an old Irish word for knowledge.” Not having access to an old Irish dictionary, I couldn’t verify this claim – but it certainly sound impressive.

Anyway, for the time being, Cuil isn't a word I’ll be using. But, my guess is Cuil will probably make it into common parlance sooner than we think. (Given the initial reviews and commentary about the search engine, Cuil could become the 21st century equivalent of the Edsel, but I hope not.)


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