Just not my type

I could really use a Kermit right now. GIF found on Tenor.

I could really use a Kermit right now.
GIF found on Tenor.

Among the many things that have required adjustment since we lost Stephanie as the Voices/editorial assistant is getting letters sent by snail mail or fax or that are hand-delivered into our computer system.

I can type them in, sure, but once my carpal tunnel starts yelling at me (which it’s doing now), it’s best to grab some Tylenol and an ice pack to shut it up. It’s like a toddler who’s sleepy but still wants you to know he’s seriously ticked off. And it really doesn’t like when you snort at its incomprehensible scribblings. Not fair!

On the bright side, I don't have to do this. Image found on QuickMeme.

On the bright side, I don’t have to do this.
Image found on QuickMeme.

I could scan the letters … except that my old personal tablet’s scanning app, which supposedly reads handwriting, doesn’t read all that well, even with typewritten text. Anyone know what “ia rrw aper so me»miss knge of important Dusmess arid pulll” means? I might have spent more time typing with this particular program … which kinda defeats the purpose, now, doesn’t it?

Because some idiot shot the lights out after proposing a tax-free weekend for gun sales. Image found on someecards.

Because some idiot shot the lights out after proposing a tax-free weekend for gun sales.
Image found on someecards.

And then there’s dictation, which is what prompted this screed. Since I already have a Google account, I can open a Google Doc and use the talk-to-text feature. Aha, I thought when it finally dawned on me (three weeks in) to try this tack, this will make it so much easier.

Easier to guffaw, maybe.

The first time out, I had few problems; mostly the wrong homophone being spit out (“musical gym” is now one of my favorite phrases). There was that one letter I dictated about the Clinton National Airport that Google decided was “missing” rather than “misnamed”—how you lose an entire airport is beyond me—but it was an understandable error.

I think I could believe Putin was behind the lousy results I've been getting in my dictation. Image found on Winning at Everything.

I think I could believe Putin was behind the lousy results I’ve been getting in my voice dictation.
Image found on Winning at Everything.

The next day, though … I still have no idea what words I spoke that made Google think I said “to make it to saint desperately like I’m at Ikea.”

Really? I’m pretty sure I’d remember a letter about Ikea (not the teeniest mention of anything even slightly Swedish) or that sounded like Valley Girl-speak.

And yet, when I decided to pull a fast one and use an infamous misheard song lyric—“… ’scuse me while I kiss this guy”—it came up with the correct “Purple Haze” lyric—“… ’scuse me while I kiss the sky.” Well, except that it was confused by “’scuse” and gave me “q’s.”

See? Chicken Little was just misunderstood! Image found on Murderati.

See? Chicken Little was just misunderstood!
Image found on Murderati.

Apparently Google really wants me to type, carpal tunnel be damned.

It seems fitting somehow that Google, now a big player in the development of artificial intelligence, has an app that apparently is afflicted with a human malady, that of the mondegreen, which got its name in 1954 in an essay in Harper’s Magazine by writer Sylvia Wright:

“When I was a child, my mother used to read aloud to me from Percy’s Reliques, and one of my favorite poems began, as I remember:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,

Oh, where hae ye been?

They hae slain the Earl Amurray,

And Lady Mondegreen.”

Oh, how dramatic ... how mistaken. Drawing by Bernarda Bryson from Harper's Magazine.

Oh, how dramatic … oh, how mistaken.
Drawing by Bernarda Bryson from Harper’s Magazine.

Except that there was no Lady Mondegreen; instead, after the Earl of Moray was slain, they “laid him on the green.” And that childhood mishearing became the word for all those lyrics, poems and everyday bits of speech that our brains don’t get quite right.

The New Yorker’s Maria Konnikova, in a 2014 story, wrote that the process of hearing is what creates mondegreens: “Mondegreens occur when, somewhere between the sound and the meaning, communication breaks down. You hear the same acoustic information as everyone else, but your brain doesn’t interpret it the same way.”

Konnikova noted that oronyms—“word strings in which the sounds can be logically divided multiple ways”— are a common cause of mondegreens:

I think a chicken driving a car would count as a pullet surprise. GIF found on giphy.

I think a chicken driving a car would count as a pullet surprise.
GIF found on giphy.

“One version that [cognitive scientist and linguist Steven] Pinker describes goes like this: Eugene O’Neill won a Pullet Surprise. The string of phonetic sounds can be plausibly broken up in multiple ways—and if you’re not familiar with the requisite proper noun, you may find yourself making an error. In similar fashion, Bohemian Rhapsody becomes Bohemian Rap City. Children might wonder why Olive, the other reindeer, was so mean to Rudolph. And a foreigner might become confused as to why, in this country, we entrust weather reports to meaty urologists or why so many people are black-toast intolerant.”

Hell, native English-speakers get confused. And now I’m terrified of meaty urologists.

I have no deep philosophical insight to offer you if you suffer from the plight of mondegreens. There’s not really a way to keep them from happening, so you might as well enjoy them. Laugh at yourself before others do it for you.

And oh, will they laugh.

So you sang “sweet dreams are made of cheese” at karaoke and everyone chortled? Smile, and say “cheese” (even though it’s “this”). Maybe even sing the extra-cheesy version.

So you feel sorry for the poor boy Queen sang of, “sparing his life from this warm sausage tea”? Well, that “warm sausage tea” certainly sounds like a “monstrosity” (the keyword in the correct lyric) … and a devilish prank to play on those who laughed at your cheesy karaoke performance.

So you said “John Brummett’s,” but Google heard “John Bromance”?

Uhhh … I got nothin’.

But a science bromance ... maybe ... Image found on MemeCenter.

But a science bromance … maybe …
Image found on MemeCenter.


Being serious for a moment: In a couple of days, the world will change as a man who has no regard for anyone but himself will be sworn in to lead our country. For those of us in the legitimate media (meaning those that strive to tell the truth, not spin), it’s a bit scary. But take heart: The man behind the curtain is always found out, and it’s up to all of us to hold him, and the media, accountable.

And yep, it’s still not illegal to make fun of the people in power, and every president has had to deal with it. En garde!

If he lasts that long ... Image found on OnSizzle.

If he lasts that long …
Image found on OnSizzle.

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7 thoughts on “Just not my type

  1. I still remember, as a young child, discovering my vision-impaired mother had misled me when she read stories about the Egyptian PRY-mids. That realization caused serious doubts about that London river, the TEMS.

    As to your comments about the impending Trump Pretendency, the final picture says it all. I imagine the Huggies truck will pull up to the White House once a week.

    Like

    • Until I saw Thames written out, I often imagined a river full of Tims (and I knew four or five growing up). 😉

      I think the truck may have to make daily deliveries. Trump Pretendency … LOVE it! 😀

      Like

  2. Coincidence that you would write about the Google voice application this morning. I was looking into that myself on Monday. Thought it might be a viable solution for someone with tremors although I was curious as to how many incorrect interpretations it might make. But it couldn’t be any worse than trying to scan! 😦

    I don’t have software or a microphone so I have a ways to go before I start talking to my computer. (Actually I have often talked to my computer before but it just wouldn’t be very polite to repeat the things I have said!)

    Now as to the pullet surprise, well I just love that. That will have to be integrated into my vocabulary somehow. I actually didn’t know chickens could drive but at least that solves the ‘crossing the road’ problem.

    Like

    • Dragon supposedly is really good, but unlike Google, it ain’t free. Apparently Apple has a really good scanning app, but my phone and tablet are Android, and I can’t afford an iPhone or iPad. Of course, with the voice app, I have to make sure my door is closed or I might get some weird newsroom chatter mixed in, but some of the results are funny enough that I forget about accuracy issues. It’s still less typing than the scanning app. 😉

      When I was growing up, there were chicken coops and houses all around us, and I wouldn’t doubt that some of the older chickens could drive … they were certainly capable of driving away kids.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Is a “Pullet Surprise” a fowl idea?
    When the Earl of Moray died, did he “eel over”?
    Then there is the version of “Jack and Jill went up the hill” which appeared in the POGO comic strip by the late Walt Kelly: “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fudge appalling Walter.”
    I will pass on the “warm sausage tea” because I am allergic to sausage and I do not like tea.
    “ia rrw aper so me>>miss knge of important Dusmess arid pull” is probably some type of secret code. Either that or it is a foreign language. Maybe Klingon?
    I have been a musician all of my life and this is the first time I have heard of a “musical gym”

    Like

    • Dude, I’m sending you to pun-gatory. 😉 My friend Ken would be in awe of you right now, I’m sure.

      I’m a fan of neither sausage nor tea, so I’ll leave it as well … but I might give it to some people who annoy the sausage out of me. Then I’d make them translate Klingon.
      I imagine a musical gym as where all the Broadway chorus members work out. 😉

      Like

      • “Pun-gatory”? I am ready to go if I am not there already. Besides POGO, I get my ideas for jokes and puns from listening to the crazy things Barry Hansen (who is more well known as Dr. Demento) plays on his show. I suspect that reading POGO when I was a boy helped to expand my vocabulary.

        Like

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