Engines that could(n’t)

Another playful allusion, this time from Dennis Baron in his excellent and thought-provoking new book A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution. From chapter 11  (“The Dark Side of the Web”), page 215, on Google in China:

Steering readers is exactly what search engines are suposed to do. It’s just that most searches aim to give users what they want, not hide it from them. Google’s Chinese adventure creates a search engine that couldn’t. Users who tried to access forbidden sites were greeted with this message: “Because of legal restrictions, your search cannot be completed.”

Note “the search engine that couldn’t”. This is an allusion to the moralistic children’s story The Little Engine That Could (Wikipedia page here), the little engine that succeeds (in pulling a train over a mountain) via the motto “I-think-I-can-I-think-I-can”. Baron’s characterization of Google in China as “the search engine that couldn’t” (succeed in finding things) is an ironic echo of the plucky engine in the story.

(Probably I should stop posting about playful allusions. There are just too many of them around.)

3 Responses to “Engines that could(n’t)”

  1. The figs of fear « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

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  2. Boldly going « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] for the Straight Guy (here) and a variety of other expressions (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, among other places). Word play that takes off on titles (of books, films, tv shows, rock […]

  3. Burlesques, parodies, playful allusions « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] for the Straight Guy (here) and a variety of other expressions (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, among other places). Word play that takes off on titles (of books, films, tv shows, rock […]

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