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Procrastination Goes Hi-Tech

We're all guilty of it - surfing from one url to the next, wasting time while looking busy. Now there’s an even more fun and pseudo-intellectual method for whiling away the hours: Googlewhacking.

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The internet is like a bowel of alphabet soup: sometimes you find meaning in it, but most of the time you spend searching.

Yes you heard it right. The term’s completely made up, a nonsense name you’ll not find in Webster’s. But enter the word in any internet search machine and you’ll find a dozen entries.

Googlewhacking is the latest trend in websports.

Computer freaks around the world are logging long hours online in the hopes of registering the most wins. Like video games, Gameboys and computerized solitaire, Googlewhacking is a high-tech procrastination device.

The concept is simple really. It combines one of the internet’s most powerful search engines – that would be the California-based google.com – with 1) a smart and resounding blow; 2) an opportunity or attempt to do something (á la Webster’s).

Sound strange? Well that’s the point of it.

Remember mole whacking?

The game starts by typing – or pounding, if you wish – any two unrelated words into Google’s search field with the aim of obtaining as few hits as possible. The ultimate goal of a Googlewhacker is seeing the words "Results 1-1 of 1" in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.

Go ahead give it a try. The more inane and obscure the words are, the better.

Check out a few of the Googlewhacking classics: orangutan popcorn fishwife (purportedly the first), colonoscopy cockatiel, nebulous cornhusk, voluptuous snowmobile, and microsoft crenelation.

And for those of you who know enough German to recognize nonsense, try dachshund krautsalat. Unless a new site pops up soon, this is a true uniwhack (1-1-1).

Geeks unite

But what would a game be without points, tallies and top scorers? Pointless, most likely.

So a few avid Googlewhackers set about creating a website dedicated to the high-tech procrastination practice: unblinking.com/heh/googlewhack.

Here like-minded surfers can learn the self-imposed rules and tabulation tactics involved in obtaining the ultimate megawhack, as well as pass along any bizarre trivia they find while surfing. The page also serves as a vanity site for documenting all uniwhacks.

But it’s a fleeting fame, because the moment a pair of words is published on the site, another entry is added to the search engine, thereby invalidating the pair for the next sufer. No sooner have you found a Googlewhack than it ceases to be one.

What’s in a name?

Gary Stock, the man behind the Googlewhacking name, tracks the trend of the expanding internet and users’ surfing habits. "All I did was come up with the term Googlewhacking", he says modestly. "People have been searching for odd combinations for years. It’s a natural thing for curious people to do."

The trend is part of the natural progression of web surfing practices, Stock says. It evolved from ego-surfing (looking up your own name in a search engine), then moved to friends, relatives and possible dates.

"You’ve already found yourself. You’ve found the people you know. There’s really nothing left to search but concepts, Stock says waxing philosophical. "You’ve evolved to a higher state."

Roaming the web in search of elusive terms may seem like a waste of time, but as web logs in education, a teacher-oriented website points out, there is a learning side effect involved. Googlewhacking helps students refine their research skills and expand their vocabulary.

As one die-hard Googlewhacker says, the game certainly sounds a lot better than "looking up words in a dictionary", plus it’s much faster and more fun.

And Stock says, the game's all in the name. It could be called by its Greek approximation, hapax legomenon, but then no one would play around with it.

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