Dick Wolfsie: When a Google search turns fowl

I just finished listening to a discussion on the radio about Internet search engines. One of the guests wanted to determine the longitude and latitude of an emerging African nation and had begun his hunt with the phrase: WHERE IS_____? Before he started typing the name of the country, Google offered him auto-filled suggestions, anticipating what he might be trying to find. Their initial recommendations were: my tax refund; Frankenmuth, Germany; and Chuck Norris.

Okay, who wouldn’t like to find Frankenmuth, Germany? But how did the other three get to the top of the list? Who cares where Chuck Norris is?

I don’t really understand the calculus behind the search results, so I thought I’d experiment a little to see if I could figure out how certain sites or references get primo ranking. Being slightly neurotic, I first plugged in: I THINK I HAVE_____. Before I finished entering the malady I am currently obsessing about, up popped some serious illnesses like monkeypox, AIDS and COVID. Number four was worms. I clicked on it out of curiosity, and it took me to some poor sap’s blog.

“I am 24 years old. I think I have parasites in my stomach because I keep hearing strange noises in my gut and a few days ago I actually found a six-inch worm in my Fruit of the Looms.” (These symptoms scared the you-know-what out of me. Here I am searching the Internet when I should be scouring my own underwear.)

Next, I tried: I AM SURE MY NEIGHBOR IS_____. There were several Google offerings to complete the entry: a cocaine dealer, stalking me and turning into a vampire. For the first time in the three years we’ve lived in our new neighborhood, I am starting to appreciate how harmless our neighbor, Paul, is.

As a person who is always misplacing things, I decided to try: I CAN’T FIND MY______. The first suggestion by Google was “wallet and glasses,” but somehow “crackers” also made it to the top tier. I won’t feel so stupid anymore when I forget where I put my keys—not when so many people in the free world have apparently lost track of their Triscuits.

Having just had a nightmare the previous evening, I put in: LAST NIGHT I DREAMED ABOUT ______. The first supplied answer was—and I swear this is true: chickens. So, if you have ever wondered whether other people have the same weird dreams as you, you’re in for a rude awakening, probably by a rooster. I clicked on that link and up came a poem by children’s author Jack Prelutsky, which read in part:

Last night I dreamed of chickens,

there were chickens everywhere,

they were standing on my stomach,

they were nesting in my hair …

How did Prelutsky scratch his way into the number one slot, the perfect place in the pecking order for an author? We’ll never know, but on a side note, I do want to assure all my readers that there will be no more fowl puns in this column.

Just for fun, I typed: MY FAVORITE PERSON IS_____. I soon discovered that there are thousands of sites referencing this topic. Approximately none of them mentioned my name. A little depressing, to be sure, but Google is only 23 years old. People don’t take to me right away.

Retired television personality Dick Wolfsie writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected]