"A unique, wry and often satirical look at the Internet, the modern age and life in general" (there is way too much search-engine competition for the phrase "incoherent ramblings")

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Technology is making us talk funny!

I am racing down a mountain road on my bike, the wind whistling past me, yelling seemingly to myself, "Paaaaaaarzzzzz, paaaaaarrrrzzzzz!!" How did things come to this pass?

To go back a little way, I was recently reviewing a new mobile phone, the HP iPaq 514/512/510 Voice Messenger, on my mountain-biking blog (long story, go and check it out, maybe this rant will make more sense) and I was reminded of an article I wrote a while back called Internet affecting the "color" of English? in which I pondered the effect the Internet is having on the English we use in writing.

Well I have realised with horror that technology in general is making us talk funny too! The case in point is the above-mentioned phone, which has a voice-activated feature, allowing you to issue commands such as Play Music, Call mobile, and the really cool What time is it? (or is it What is the time? - I can never remember) Now this doesn't require "training" - the phone just recognises your speech. This is great! A dream for the cyclist - ok, car driver too, I suppose - who wants to be in control of his cellphone and still have both hands on the handlebars.

Except, the phone expects you to be talking with an American accent. And herein lies the problem. If I want to be understood by my phone, it's no good saying Pause ('Porz')) with my British accent, because it won't understand me. I am sure of this, because it misunderstood it as Call several times, with embarassing results. No, I have to try to approximate an American accent and say Paaaarrrzzzz! Hence the scene depicted above.

Even worse is the fact that it will not understand the names of non-English people, of which there are a great number in my phone address book. So for example, to call my friend Jovan Jovanović I have to say something like, Kaaaaarrrrlll Joe-vaaan Joe-vaaan-er-vick! I don't know how hot your Serbian is, but trust me, that ain't how his name is pronounced.

And now imagine me walking down a British street, in public, seemingly talking to myself in this strange unnatural language.

Technology is making us talk funny, no two ways about it. But then again, we got used to housewives calling from the supermarket just to ask their husbands if they needed frozen peas, so maybe we'll get used to this too...