In the late 1930s, Edward Kasner was asked to come up with the name for a large number; as legend has it, he asked his nine-year old nephew, who said “googol,” and Kasner’s 1940 book “Mathematics and the Imagination” popularized the term for the number 1 followed by a hundred zeroes. Over a half century later, a variation of that word was used to name a popular search engine, which you may have heard is going public in an e billion dollar offering.
Now Kasner’s great-niece, Peri Fleisher, is going public herself, complaining that her family hasn’t been compensated for Google’s choice of a name, and “exploring” the possibility of legal action. Fleisher has said that she would settle for being allowed to participate as an “insider” in the IPO; the interviewer, either out of ignorance or charity, doesn’t point out that because the Google IPO is a “Dutch auction,” Fleisher already has the right to participate as an “insider” (presuming she means a “friends and family offering”), which is merely the right to buy shares in an IPO at the issuing price. (Gerald P. Merrell, “Have your Google people talk to my ‘googol’ people”, Baltimore Sun, May 16).