“Why can’t I own a Canadian?” And other delights from Google Suggest …

Back in November, I saw the incredibly excellent “Google Suggest” contest at Slate. You know about Google Suggest — it’s the little algorithm Google runs that observes what you’re typing in the search box, and suggests some possible things you might be searching for, based things similar things other people typed. Anyway, Michael Agger of Slate asked people to find the strangest things that Google suggests, and the winners were some real doozies.

I forgot about the contest until I was surfing the Tumblog of Alyssa Galella, and saw a funny post where she used Google Suggest to locate all the big stereotypes about Italians. So I started testing out some queries and found the one above.

And of course I’m all like, What the heck? “Why can’t I …” yields “Why can’t I own a Canadian?” So I clicked on the query and realized what’s going on. Apparently a popular meme online several years ago was a letter that someone wrote a satirical letter to radio host Laura Schlessinger after she told her audience that homosexuality is expressly forbid by Leviticus 18:22 in the Bible. The letter asks Schlessinger about whether other passages of Leviticus ought to be taken literally, including this one:

Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

Heh. I’m a little surprised that this meme has so much Google juice that it has risen to the top of other “Why can’t I …” search strings.

While I was at it, I ran a few other Google Suggest queries and found some other surreal ones; they’re below, after the jump.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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