Super polite grandma's Google search gets results — and then some

An 86-year-old's polite Google search has blown up online — a tweet of it has more than 10,000 retweets, 14,500 likes and has even received a live response from Google.

Her courteous search request has gone viral — it even made Google smile

Ben Eckersley tweeted out a photo of his grandmother May Ashworth's polite Google search, which has since gone viral. Here, he poses with her after their viral internet success. (Ben Eckersley)

Ben Eckersley giggled when he flipped open his grandmother May Ashworth's laptop last Thursday. The 86-year-old hadn't closed her Google tab, so her grandson got a glimpse at her last search.

"Please translate these roman numerals mcmxcviii thank you," the search said, followed by the answer — 1998.

Eckersley snapped a picture of the search and put it on Twitter for his friends to see. His tweet has since blown up — it has more than 10,000 retweets, 14,500 likes and has even gotten a live response from Google itself.

It turns out Ashworth was just trying to look up when a nursery rhyme book was published. She knew two of the numbers were 98, but couldn't figure the rest out.

"I feel a bit stupid really 'cause I did it that way," she told CBC News from her home in Greater Manchester. "I thought, well somebody's put it in, so you're thanking them."

"I don't know how it works to be honest. It's all a mystery to me."

Ashworth admits she's not very computer savvy. She doesn't know how to send emails and only uses Google a couple of times a week when she's stumped and needs to look something up.

Her grandson comes over to do his laundry and documents her mishaps every so often when he's there. He posts them for friends on Snapchat and Twitter. 

But this is the first time a post has gone viral. Ashworth said she is a bit overwhelmed by it all.

"I always love to think of myself as Mrs. Invisible," she said, joking. "I'm wary of saying anything in front of him now."

She made Google smile

Ashworth's manners have charmed the internet. After getting picked up by local media, her story has spread worldwide — Ashworth was even mentioned on Wednesday's episode of the Today show. When that happened, Eckersley knew he had to tell his grandmother, whom he calls Nan.

"I can't tell you how funny it is," Ashworth said. "Just it makes me speechless, honestly."

Even Google caught wind of the search and tweeted its own responses to it. The first came from Google's United Kingdom account, followed by one from the main Google Twitter account, which has more than 15 million followers. Eckersley said he's hoping for a free laptop now that Google has acknowledged it.

Ashworth said there's not a lot of nice things going on in the world right now, which is why she thinks her story has resonated with people.

"The films [today] seem to be all nasty and explosions. So it might be in the back of their minds, it's just like something a bit calming or soothing or something, I don't know," she said.

"I'm old enough to have gone through from the war to now … I was born in 1930, and you can imagine, there's been so much change in the world all that time … but I don't know if it's for the better or not."

Ashworth said all the attention has made her laugh. And how are they celebrating the new-found internet fame?

"We've gone really British and she just made me a cup of tea," Eckersley said.

About the Author

Haydn Watters

Haydn Watters is a roving reporter for Ontario, primarily serving the province's local radio shows. He has worked for CBC News and CBC Radio in Halifax, Yellowknife, Ottawa and Toronto, with stints at the politics bureau and the entertainment unit. He also ran an experimental one-person pop-up bureau for the CBC in Barrie, Ont.

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