spellchecker-has-no-sense-of-humor

Sarah

I am often at odds with spellcheckers.  It’s not so much that the spellcheckers are wrong. It’s that they’re so—provincial.  Maybe it’s because I was an English teacher or because I sort of consider myself a word girl, but I feel free to do with English as I will.  I take liberties.  I know this.  (I once had a very educated roommate look me straight in the eye and say, “Sarah, tell me honestly.  Is ‘funkify’ a real word?  You use it all the time.”)

But spellcheckers are inherently conservative.  Their sole purpose is to keep us from looking like fools.  (Like foos.)  They are the matrons of the digital world.  The school marms of email.  The nuns of Catholic .doc-school.  (I guess I’m realizing they’re kind of female to me.)  They’re concerned but in a maternal sort of way: “Are you sure you want to spell it ‘taht’ way?  You’re sure?  Please speak up.”

When I first summered at the firm where I’m now working, I found myself in a conversation about our Outlook spellchecker and how dogmatic it is, always wanting, for instance, to turn our lawyerly “mootness” into “moistness.”  “Yeah!” I said.  “I know what you mean!  My spellchecker’s always on my case, trying to stop me from using words like ‘shakealicious.’”  I looked around.  Blank stares.  One attorney spoke: “Under what circumstances were you wanting to use the word ‘shakealicious’?”

I didn’t have a good answer.

But I’ve made peace with my Outlook spellchecker.  These days I just patiently add the words it doesn’t know.  Thurgood.  Sussing.  Snooker.  Yeehaw.  Olson.  (I keep a list by my desk.)

The computerized dictionary I tussle with most right now is my cell phone dictionary.  Predictive text was made for speed, but not for my expansive English-language loving.  We do not speak the world in the same way.  I want to write “Palo Alto.”  It writes “Palm alto.”  I say “creativity.”  It comes up with “spectivity.”  “Shakealicious?”  You guessed it: “Pickeckicinvr.”

But I’m learning too that my cell dictionary is surprisingly naïve.  And positive.  It doesn’t have words like “crap” or “hater” or any swears.  (I was just checking.)  But you know what word it did have?  Diggity!  DIGGITY!  What Finnish programmer laughed himself to sleep after choosing that?

Except, we’ve recently run into a problem.  Shortly after the New Year, the 4 key on my cell phone freaked out—spasmed into a blinking, unprompted row of 4s that would flash into Gs then back into 4s then back into Gs.  And then, in a fit of 44444444444444444, it died.  Now, unless I press really, really, really hard, I don’t get any 4 at all.  No way I’m getting an “i.”  So my texts read like this: “Ey frend.  Me at ome now.  Were are you?”

This week I tried to text a friend this: “The photographer told me I was actually having a pretty good hair day,” which would have read, “Te potoraper told me me was actually avn a pretty ood ar day,” except I realized it was gibberish (“bbers”), and deleted the whole thing.  (Michelle, that text was going to you.  Sorry you never knew I was thinking about you.)

What I’m saying, world, is don’t feel bad if I don’t text “hi” to you anymore.  Or “hugs” (“us”).  Or “high-five” (“-fve”).  Or “goodnight” (“oodnt”).  There’s a 5-cent piece of plastic and an infinitesmally small knot of wires stopping up the love between me and you.  What’s a girl to do?*

But if one of these days your phone dances, and you get a text from me that says “Ey, kddo.  Mssn you,” just know–it comes from my eart.

* I suppose I could call you.  But were’s the fun in tat?

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