“What’s in a Name?”


The Joys of Internet Searches

You know search engines... wonderful things... you type in a keyword or two and the program searches for them in its database of websites. As you get better at choosing keywords your searches yield better and better results.
Sometimes, however, things conspire against you…

Ancient Internet History

Long, long ago, when the internet was still relatively young and uncrowded, when rocks were still soft and newly formed, and dinosaurs roamed the earth… you could enter, say, “catapult” and get back results made up entirely of pages about throwing things.
True, the word “catapult” covered devices as divergent as steam-powered naval aeroplane launchers and hand-help juvenile pebble-throwers, but if you chose your supporting keywords thoughtfully you’d get the right stuff.

Then, one day, something happened. It was, I expect, one of those marketing or advertising fads.
Suddenly, all the job/career/business agencies discovered the word “catapult” and ALL their sites used it as part of their names, their programs or their slogans. “Catapult your business into the future” “Job Catapult” … sigh… and very soon after that the software manufacturers spotted the bandwagon and jumped aboard too.
How depressing. From that moment “catapult” was almost useless as a search keyword. ...Fortunately, the word “trebuchet” was out there…

What does “Trebuchet” mean?
Ah, well there’s the problem. In addition to being the name of a wonderful gravity-powered medieval military marvel, “Trébuchet” is a modern French word.. a word in current use.

Scales: Look up the word trébuchet and you can find yourself reading a fascinating French article about a merchant’s balance found on an ancient shipwreck. A trebuchet is, you see, a small set of scales, a balance.

Snares: Alternatively, a trébuchet is a trap, eg for small birds, made like a box-shaped cage with a tilting lid. …it's that same balanced-on-an-axle movement…

Whoops!: To further complicate things, “to stumble” in French is “trebucher”. I suppose you can see the resemblance to the siege engine's beam as it falls forward... but which usage came first?

Le Vin: On top of this Trébuchet is a French surname – and winemakers Charton et Trébuchet, makers of fine burgundy, are often mentioned in wine websites.

Complicated enough yet? Well unfortunately there’s more.

Fonts: A little while back there arrived a font named – you guessed it – “trebuchet”. It wouldn’t have been so bad had it been an odd, obscure, little-used thing – but unfortunately trebuchet is actually quite a nice type face and is very popular. So now there are legions of websites out there with the word “trebuchet” in their code… and, if the page was written by one of those word-processor based code generating utilities for the HTML-handicapped, it may well redefine its font face (and therefore use the “T” word) every paragraph. Arggh!

So there you have it. In a way we should be grateful that the poor search engines still perform as well as they do – and having to weed out the chaff with clever keywords and cunning stratagems keeps us on our toes.
Don’t forget though, that just because a site uses trebuchet font, recommends M. Trebuchet’s wine and makes reference (in French) to weighing machines or bird-catching, doesn’t mean that it isn’t also full of wonderful siege engine information.
Simple Boolean “not” operators in your searches might lose you a lot of contacts.

Good luck and good hunting.