Google’s War on ‘Chanuka’

For those of you unimpressed by Google’s ‘Let it snow‘ Easter Egg: good.

As you can see, WordPress got there first by a solid two and a half weeks.

Those aware of said Easter Egg may or may not be surprised to learn that – unlike Apple – Google is not interested in taking a position in the War on behalf of Christmas. Instead, it has offered separate but equal status to Jews in the form of their very own Chanuka Easter Egg*:

But while Google may have taken steps to skirt one controversy, it now finds itself embroiled in another, more bitter than the last: the war on Chanuka.

The following chart** delineates common variations on Chanuka – a miraculous one spelling for each night! Feel free to count them yourself, or just take my word for it:

Chart courtesy of Avidan Ackerson

Here’s the problem: while Google deemed certain spellings worthy of Easter Egg treatment, it ruthlessly sent other – equally legitimate – variations to the left. Let’s take a closer look.

Two more make the cut, for a total (with ‘Chanukah’, above) of three acceptable spellings:

But it also kicked five to the curb, including my personal preferred spelling, listed first below:

You may notice that there is no real pattern to which permutations were deemed acceptable by the Google algorithm – four of the five that failed to make the grade even have the exact same 9.2/9.41 million results as spellings that were Easter Egged, demonstrating its awareness of their functional equivalence.

I thought the seeming arbitrariety*** on the part of Google might have some basis in some list a Google engineer happened to google. For instance, he or she might have come across Wikipedia:

Hanukkah (Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה‎, Tiberian: Ḥănukkāh, usually spelled חנוכה pronounced [χanuˈka] in Modern Hebrew, also romanized as ChanukahChanukkah, or Chanuka), also known as the Festival of Lights

There is a certainly a degree of correlation, but whoever coded the effect seems to have gotten bored after three.

Also, no luck here:

So with Wikipedia out, I’m forced to consider that Google has put a Jihad on Chanuka, Hanuka, and any and all other variations on the same name.

Facebook, meanwhile, seems not to be quite as restrictive. My newsfeed alerted me that 5 friends posted about Hanukkah (Google-approved), but went on to list posts that spell it ‘Hanukkah’, ‘Chanuka’  (not Google-approved), ‘Hannukah’ (-approved, but not Avidan-approved), ‘Chanukkah’ (-approved), and ‘Chanukah’ (-approved). Without a list of which posts were excluded, it’s harder to tell what Facebook doesn’t consider Chanuka ‘enough’.

Cue someone telling me life would be so much less complicated if everybody just lived in Israel and spoke Hebrew. Here, they have a point.

Once again, internet, you have left me with no good explanation.


*And now you know why I didn’t make a crack* about the Christmas Easter Egg. This is better

**Technically a deterministic finite automaton, but when I see DFA I think Designated For Assignment, so we’ll stick with ‘chart’

***Not a word, but it should be

*Pun intended


11 thoughts on “Google’s War on ‘Chanuka’”

  1. I say that Avidan Ackerson has waged war on Hannukah, which is spurned by his flowchart, but included in Google’s easter egg (or Hannukah gelt, as the case may be).


  2. This school practiced a like D. Cheney’s mind-contr­ol-tactic on defenseles­s, innocent childern; then, hiped $$profit [money] as a justificat­ion for what they did… Damn Them!


  3. Google ngram historical (1880 – 2000) usage for the spellings you have:
    2 out of Google’s 3 (Chanukah and Hanukkah) far far outweigh the rest. Granted this is only occurrences in their corpus which is likely just written words, but nevertheless.

    And here’s Google search trends (limited the past year for clarity):
    Same 2 out of 3 are winners. So now I’m curious where the other one came from.


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