How do you search when you don’t know what to search for? What keywords do you use when you don’t know which keywords will yield the best results? Or in metaphorical terms, what do you use as bait when you don’t know what you’re fishing for? I recently experienced this paradox firsthand.
Amazon has this great feature, called a Wish List. You can add Amazon items to this list, as well as links to items on other websites or even a word or two that represents an idea for an item. Gift-givers can also indicate they have bought the item on the list so the gift-receiver doesn’t end up with, say, 10 copies of the new Taylor Swift album. Therefore, Amazon is excellent for the rapidly approaching Christmas holiday — instead of my dad asking me what I want for Christmas, he told me I needed to update my Amazon Wish List (my old one from graduation was still up).
Thus, I began a search of epic proportions, a journey that lasted longer than all three Lord of the Rings movies combined — spaced out over the course of a week, obviously. I am a grad student, after all. But what was my Holy Grail, you ask? This:
That low, steady hum you hear is angels singing.
This is the watch to put all others to shame. It’s water resistant; has three different dials to tell military time, the date, and the day; and when you press a knob on the side, the face lights up. It was this last feature that was the cause of my search trouble. The watch I currently have (and have had for at least a decade, if not longer) is a Timex that has taken a few too many lickings, apparently, as it eats up batteries like Alice Cooper goes through eyeliner.
Pictured: a simile
Hence, my Christmas wish for a new watch. I wanted one with all the functions of my Timex — it’s water resistant, gives the date, and the face glows when the knob is pressed. “Water resistant” and “date” are easy enough keywords to feed Amazon’s search engine, but that last feature… Timex calls it an Indiglo© function. But, notice that “c” with a circle around it? Yeah, that means Timex is literally the only company that uses the word “Indiglo” to refer to a glowing dial — and it just so happened that I didn’t like any of the Timex watches for one reason or another. So my problem was, HOW DO I SEARCH FOR SOMETHING I HAVE NO NAME FOR??? I tried everything I could think of: glowing dial, light-up face, glow-in-the-dark, and every other variation I can’t currently recall (my brain blocked out the traumatic details of the irksome search). It was only in the midst of one such fruitless search that I stumbled upon the word that proved to be my salvation:
This was the keyword I had needed all along! I typed in my requisite features and added my new favorite word to the Amazon search bar, and VOILA! Magic! This beauty appeared from the mists of all the other inferior wrist watches!
So glorious, it deserves another look.
That one word made all the difference in my search. Because I didn’t know how to describe this one thing I wanted to find, I was stymied. Language is truly mightier than a thousand blades — you can’t spell “swords” without “words,” and apparently, you can’t search for a watch with a glowing dial without the word “luminous.”