The verb to google is one of the newest entries into the English language. We use it as a generic term for an internet search, even if we happen not to be using the search engine it is named after (see also yahoo). But how did the founders of Google arrive at what is now one of the largest brand names on the planet?
Making his debut in 1919 in a cartoon strip called ‘Take Barney Google, F’rinstance’, which ran on the sports pages of the Chicago Herald and Examiner, Barney Google was a little chap with big eyes who was fond of boxing and horse racing. In 1924, cartoonist Billy DeBeck introduced a new character, a racehorse called Spark Plug, which lead to a huge increase in the popularity of the strip. Having gone national, Barney Google then went global, appearing across twenty-one countries by the mid-1930s. His slangy catchphrases included ‘sweet mama’, ‘horsefeathers’ and ‘heebie-jeebies’, and he is also thought to be the origin of the expression googly-eyed.
Such was the popularity of Barney Google by 1940 that, when mathematician Edward Kasner asked his nine-year-old nephew to suggest a name for the figure 10 followed by 100 zeros, the boy decreed it should be a googol. It was this word for an almost infinite number that Larry Page and Sergei Brin had in mind when they named their company in 1998.
Extract from Money for Old Rope Parts 1 & 2