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Google's Suggest feature makes for some surprising fill-in-the-blanks

June 2, 2009 |  2:51 pm
Google Charles Darwin
Google's suggested search terms for "Charlies Darwin is."

Computers can be unintentionally funny. Take the unlikely vein of amusement buried within Google's search suggestion feature.

Launched in December 2004 as a beta product called Google Suggest, the doohickey attempts to finish your thought as you type a search query. Suggest wasn't integrated into Google.com or various Web browser toolbars until last year.

Since then, users have found plenty of Google-generated phraseology quirks to snicker about. The most amusing findings have percolated on social bookmarking websites Digg and Reddit.

The game works like this: type a partial search like "Barack Obama is" or "Bill O'Reilly is" into Google.

The search engine then uses a series of algorithms designed to guess the most likely ending to your query, a Google spokesman wrote in an e-mail. Which means the results are derived from actual user queries, not with Google's software.

Anyway, if those guesses are entertaining enough, snap a picture of the list and submit it to your local social website.

For those too lazy to punch the previous two terms into Google, the search engine irreverently suggests that Barack Obama could be an idiot, a Muslim, a socialist, the Antichrist, "hot" or your new bicycle -- whatever that means.

Google offers a similarly variegated list of characteristics for Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly, which swings from racist, to idiot and back to the more flattering "nice."

Type "Charles Darwin is" and you'll find that in addition to suggesting that the British scientist is, yet again, an idiot -- the words "wrong," and "satan" may be just as likely...

...to satisfy some online searchers.

Then there's the head-scratcher for "What would Jesus do?" the popular Christian phrase. One option: "What would Jesus do for a Klondike bar?"

The answer is not given.

Another Digg classic is "how long does ..." which shows that search engines may be more likely to be used to skirt a drug test than to learn how long it takes to boil an egg.

Even Fail Blog, a bulletin board for the world of the tragically funny, caught on to the meme with an example it picked from Silicon Alley Insider: "I am extremely ..."

Of course, hilarity has been expunged from other Google products before. Creed fans (yes, they do exist) weren't happy with Google's related search term for "the worst band in the world." And there's the array of entertaining moments captured on tape by Google's Street View van.

The Suggest meme, however, has apparently gotten so out of hand that one Reddit user took it upon himself to manufacture his own version to end the madness. His plea: "please stop." But why, sir, why?

-- Mark Milian

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