One of the techniques I use for checking a word’s provenance is to do a search using Google and check the number of hits. It seems that I can save some keystrokes by using the word ghit instead – short for “Google hit.” Well, duh! In the image below, the graph shows the ghits for the word gold plotted against actual gold prices.
As you might expect, it’s a very new word. One of the earliest uses I can find is in a Language Log blog posting from Mark Liberman, where there’s a reference to “Trevor,” whose second name I couldn’t find, who appears to have coined it. The actual link to the archive where he first uses it is a dead link – boohhh!
On that February 9th, 2004, the plural form, ghits, had a ghit of 2380. Today (April 1st – and no, this is not a joke posting) it has a ghit of 21,000. The singular ghit has a ghit of only 72,700.
I also looked for “to ghit” and “ghitting” to find that no-one has, as yet, verbified the word. So here’s my chance…
I ghitted ghitted and that didn’t show any verb use neither. The ghit for ghitting was only 107, and they turned out to be misspellings of hitting (clearly a slip of the keys because G is just to the right of H on the keyboard) or a phonetic spelling for “getting” – as in “I’m ghitting out of here!”
The word ghit turns up in the Urban Dictionary as a variation on the pejorative word git, meaning “a moron, idiot, fool…” as in “Get stuffed you fat git!” This word sounds the same and comes from the word get meaning “a bastard; hence as a general term of abuse: a fool, idiot” (OED, Vol VI, p. 476). The word get for a person is dialectical, typical of Scotland and the north of England. Being a Lancashire lad myself, “you stupid get” has been in my vocabulary forever.
Linguist Geoff Pullum has suggested ghit should be pronounced /’dʒihɪt/ but I don’t buy that. He suggests we should use the spelling Ghit because the G is from Google,and the company should be recognized. I prefer the simple ghit because I prefer the single syllable word to the double, and a “jee-hit” is double. There’s an old, old school of thought that suggests you should prefer the short word to the longer, and in this case I’m OK with the rule. Mind you, I prefer loquacious to wordy, so go figure!
A Danish company has appropriated the word for their web site, ghits.dk, which, as you might expect, measures page hits for specific words, although they also use other search engines. What is fascinating is that the word is becoming “uprooted” from its “Google hit” origin to become a word-in-itself meaning “a measure of page hits using one, or many, search engines.” Clearly the etymon of “Google hit” will remain, but its new gloss will probably take over, casting aside its specific link to that one commercial search engine.
Henceforth on, I will be using ghits often. Ghit use to it!