Scott Mahr

Scott Mahr's Lonely Internet Clubhouse

Back when Google was nothing more than a miraculous search engine, some nerds (maybe on their brand-new transluscent iMacs?) invented Googlewhacking.

The objective was to find two dictionary words that, when searched for as a pair, yielded a single web result. This was when Google still advertised the total number of pages in their index at the bottom of every listing, and while modest by today's standards, this count had already surpassed a billion, so to narrow that number down to a single result by virtue of two words that existed in tandem nowhere else on the web elicited the kind of lethargic thrill on which the internet has been thriving ever since.

The word got out about this being a fun challenge, and Googlewhack enthusiasts launched web pages to track their pursuits. But, inevitably, as people began to document their achievents online, those new pages were in turn indexed by Google, and surfaced in the search results alongside the original, now-invalid 'whack. Any contemporary searches of Googlewhack examples bring up pages and pages of sites referencing the Googlewhack concept, leaving whatever website that had spawned the 'whack in the first place to fade into the obscurity for which it had always been destined, were it not for a bunch of bored Y2K-era nerds.

A Googlewhack is an inherently fleeting entity—victim to some sibling of the observer effect, where the act of measuring a specific phenomenon ultimately affects the results of the measurement. The perfect Googlewhack is the Googlewhack no one finds.

I remember as a kid coming up with a few successful ones, but that was 15 years ago and I don't remember what they were. Recent attempts have been pathetic: the first least-congruous word-pair I could bring to mind is someone's goddamn Pinterest username, and my best venture ('oxybenzone aardvark') only yields in the mid-400s.

In the early 17th century, English fishermen operating off the coast of Newfoundland recounted cod shoals "so thick by the shore that we hardly have been able to row a boat through them". In our modern era, any precious resource so plentiful as to hinder one's movement through the world is hard to imagine. Yet, in remembering the novelty of a singular search engine result, one does feel we're now moving in the opposite direction.