The Voice of the Future

As you also may know if you’re a long time reader, I have a hard time with technology.  Particularly if it talks.  I wrote about it here:  I can’t get no.  You have no doubt heard me screaming from wherever it is you are, when I am asked the same question for the 128th time by the same incredibly patient voice on the other end of the phone.   If I could get a hold of the person behind the voice, I would slap her silly.  Because those auto-answering voices used by every single company I need to call — they make me crazy.

So naturally, I had to dig myself in deeper.

Yup, recently I got an iPhone4S, with Suri.  And within days, I wanted to strangle her, too.  Suri makes me crazy, and only partly because her voice is the same one as the voice prompt I named Sybil in I can’t get no.  (They are obviously psychotic twins.)  I gave Suri several chances to help me and to help herself in the process, but she always lets me down.  Once, I was trying to demonstrate to my boss how she can find a phone number for you and dial it:

“Suri, call home,” I commanded.

“You have 16 homes.”

Shit.  So much for my raise.

Another time, I tried all day to get her help with finding a nearby restaurant when we were on vacation.  I gave up in frustration, and in complete exasperation I said to Siri:

“Oh Fuck Off!”

She finally gave me a reasonable answer:

“What did I do to deserve that?” she said.


But actually, it isn’t only voice-activated prompts that make me nuts.  Real live people do, too.  Especially if they have an accents.   I cannot emphasize enough just how convenient this difficulty was when I lived in another country where they spoke a language that required the use of an accent.

Still, probably the most difficult accent for me is a Scottish one, which is quite frustrating.  You see, they speak English.  Sort of.

Actually, Scotland is near and dear to my heart.  John went to University there, and we have many friends in and around Edinburgh from those days.  Best of all, John asked me to marry him overlooking Edinburgh Castle at sunset after we hiked up the Salisbury Crags.  (See why I married him?)

Edinburgh Castle4

How could I say anything but yes?

Salisbury Crags

(Both Google Images)

But in lots trips to Scotland over the years, umpteen phone calls and reciprocal visits to us, I continue to have trouble understanding our friends. It’s the accent.

I canna understand it.

At first, I thought it was just the heavy Scottish Brogue and that my ear would get attuned to it.  Nope.  Not all of our friends have a brogue as few are completely Scottish.  Some actually hail from Northern Ireland, another was raised for 10 years in Czechoslovakia before moving to Scotland.  Others are English.  Some of our friends are even mutts and we don’t talk about them much.  We really only have two friends who are authentically Scottish.  It’s a motley crew.  No matter.  They are all wonderful, fun, and we have a blast when we visit or when they come here.

Or at least I think we do.  You see, since I have such a hard time understanding them, I never know what anyone is talking about or what I’m agreeing to.  Nevertheless, I agree to whatever I am asked.  I swear, their accents are thick as mud.  Thicker, even.  And they’re all professional people, doctors, dentists, executives and school teachers.  So my way is easier.  What sort of trouble could they get me into?  Besides, I’m pretty sure I’ve responded appropriately when spoken to over the years.  If not, I am hoping that when they laugh at me, that they think kindly of poor John’s wife, that agreeable deaf woman.

But somehow, I expect to have the last laugh.


Filed under Family, Gizmos, Humor, Mental Health, Stupidity

62 responses to “The Voice of the Future

  1. It would be fun to watch you and Oregano travel together. He can’t understand anyone with an accent either. We’ve traveled to Ireland twice and when someone with a brogue speaks to him he turns to me for translation. We are considering a trip to Scotland in the next year or two. I can only imagine how much “translating” I will need to do there.


    • We are peas in a pod, I can tell.

      Do let me know before you go to Scotland — I’d love to hear where you’re going (Edinburgh a must; Glasgow not so much (I’ve been to Scotland 8-10 times and never been. It’s rainy there. Very) highlands. Sea coast. Be sure to watch Local Hero before you go.

      Scottish accents are way harder than Irish. But the people are equally wonderful.


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  3. GOF

    Just last week I was with my American niece in a backpackers hostel here in Australia. She asked the receptionist some questions but couldn’t understand the accented reply, so she asked me to see if I could understand what she was saying. I didn’t understand a word either but I’m pretty sure she was Scottish..:-)
    Billy Connolly, on the other hand I understand well with his colourful Scottish vocabulary.


  4. JSD

    Thanks for a great laugh!! 🙂


  5. winsomebella

    I am readying my ears to watch the new season of Downton Abbey……though their accents are not nearly the challenge of the Scottish accent. And yes, I can see why you had to say yes 🙂


  6. Sometimes I enjoy the comments and your replies as much as your original post. My 2 cents: I don’t like devices that talk back. I don’t have GPS and my phone’s not smart and that’s the way I like it. As for accents, I love them – especially Irish or certain British accents. I’ve been watching a British comedy on Netflix with my partner. I don’t understand half the dialogue but it’s still funny. Go figure.


    • What a nice comment, ForkOfX! I traced you back and found our new alterego (good for you figuring out how to do that — everyone else I know who tried lost loads of readers). My Bloggin Buddies are a humorous lot, I’d say.

      I love hearing the accents, and I can usually comprehend Irish and English (although they do often use the same word to very different purposed). A Scottish accent is more like an Irishman with a pillow in his mouth.

      And I’m with you on the British shows — I think some of it is the sound quality though. Because all the Brits I know are quite able to speak in an understandable fashion. Quite.


  7. Hilarious video – I find Siri only useful for philosophical or rhetorical questions – ask her the meaning of life over and over. She can be pretty evasive.


  8. cooper

    scottish accents are tough…i spent years listing to John Lennon’s scottish xmas greeting and not understanding 60% of it. Same with Several Species of Small Animals Gathered Together in A Cave and Grooving With A Pict on Pink Floyd’s UmmaGumma LP – canna unnerstan….


  9. I like catching an afternoon version of the Deutsche Welle German (in English) news. The accents aren’t bad at all – except for one lady, who has the THICKEST Irish accent I’ve ever heard. (And remember, I come from Chicago, home of the infamous “Southside Irish”!) That’s not bad, but then she starts trying to pronounce German company and location names like a lifelong German-speaker. I swear – Klingon would be easier to understand! 😀


    • Ahch, Irish isn’t near as bad as Scottish. It’s more like ‘merican.

      The French class I took in Geneva had one American student from West Virginia who had a very thick WV accent. It was painful to listen to her speak French and she always volunteered. Oy.


      • My dad used to teach technical classes for Illinois Bell (now Ameritech), and he got folk from all over the country. He could handle just about any accent (though he hated the far southern Bama/Georgians because they talked SO slowly), except for the West Virginian hill folk. He and one of his fellow teachers actually laid out a phonetic translation sheet! 😀


  10. Edinburgh castle is everything you want a castle to be. It’s perfect.

    And, yes, I agree – I suppose technically it’s English, but holy smokes… If you step 15 feet outside of Edinburgh, you’ll never understand a word that’s said. It’s incredible.


    • Edinburgh Castle is magical, isn’t it? On one of the two New Years’ we spent there, Jacob was about 7, and we popped in to see the Armory — we thought he’d love seeing all the suits of armor and weapons. Well it was all pushed off into a corner, and there in the center of the room was James Taylor and our favorite Gaelic band, Capercaille. They were rehearsing for that night’s concert. We had a private showing and it was magical!


  11. I worked around lots of folks with all sorta accents when I was in Saudi. I was also immersed in different ones when I lived in Germany. It’s not diffcult me to understand folk, really. I do, however, have a hard time when folk don’t fully open their mouth and speak clearly and I hate to give up on a conversation, which ain’t so easy to do when the J.O.B. comes into play.

    Good luck with that phone. I got the iPhone 4. My first smart phone. I feel pretty much like a genius now.


    • Some accents are easier than others. And there are some that you get used to with a little time. Scots are harder than most, I think. Then again, I often have a hard time with my husband and my son, neither of whom do what you recommendt — open their mouth and speak clearly. Then they get annoyed when asked to repeat. I guess I’m going to stick completely with my blogging buddies. I can always understand them!


  12. This is so funny!
    Out of town, we asked Suri for a tire store since we had a flat and had to replace the spare. Suri didn’t help us when we simply said “tires.” Then we spelled t-i-r-e-s. Suri picked up on eye doctors and never let go of finding us eyewear, eye doctors, etc.
    On the other hand, daughters have a way with her–“ask Suri” they cheerfully chirp–grrrrrrr.


    • I think we have given birth to a very different set of folks. My son is the same way. He uses Suri effectively, well, successfully (his Suri, not mine whom he agrees is a total ninny). But still, I’m guessing mine senses the hostility!


  13. My “Suri” is a man, but I’m sure he is a close relation of your “Suri”. He also seems unaturally even tempered and combines this with an irritating ability to misunderstand almost anything I say to him.


    • Ducks, your Suri is a man? I’ve never heard of that. I wonder if I would have more patience with an unhelpful man than with an unhelpful woman. Nah, I’d still want to smash it!


  14. I yell at the automated voice on the phone, too. We have so much in common.


  15. bigsheepcommunications

    I’m convinced that the programmers who create these “conveniences” do this on purpose, just to have some fun. They pretend to be helpful, but really, the joke’s on us.


  16. OMG ,,,, this is too darn funny. I’ve got the feeling I may be saying Eleven throughout the day!

    Regarding you and Suri … I’m confident you gentle, patient, & calm side will win her over.


    • My calm gentle side will smash Suri into little pieces. Which is, of course, why I bough the protection plan for my phone!

      Thanks for the video. It doesn’t tell me how to understand them, though. I actually end up being very attentive to each word — but a lot of the difference is the coloquial terms they use that I don’t know. It gets confusing.

      But they are wonderful friends and we laugh about the miscommunications.

      And Frank?



  17. Freeeeedom!! Jim and I both laughed so hard at that video.

    I’ve never tried Suri, but Jim’s job requires him to have a GPS when he goes out on calls. So whenever he calls me to chat, all I can hear in the background is the annoying voice of ‘Sexy Samantha’. She’s always interrupting us. “In five miles, take a right.” “You’re 3.5 miles from your destination.” AAARGH! Shut up Samantha. Shut UP!


  18. Hilarious! That is exactly how I am when I’m on the phone with Blue Cross and Blue Shield. I usually scream R E P R E S E N T A T I V E by the end of the call and it has the NERVE to respond with “All representatives are busy.” …..ugh, yea no shit!


    • ONLY with BCBS? I really have to work myself up for a couple of hours before I place a call to one of those companies with robots. On the plus side, I don’t feel obligated to be nice to them, so I’ve got that going for me.

      Human please?


  19. Oh my God, I am crying I am laughing so hard. Like you I hate voice activated anything. I refuse to use it, refuse to speak to a machine. Refuse to allow machines to speak to me. I punch “0” until someone comes on the line.


    • You would think, wouldn’t you, that companies would understand that they are making all of the customers furious. Of course, where else do you go? I hate these things. But I hope I never have to use a voice activated elevator.


  20. Clinton

    You do know that I used to make devices talk, yes? Blood Glucose meters, kilns, calculators and cash registers have all enjoyed my improvements. I even made a device for the FBI that listened to touch tone dialing and spoke the phone number. My voice has been shipped to a dozen countries or more. Nonetheless, I agree with you. (This was all written in a Scottish accent.)


  21. Hi,
    That truly was hilarious, it brought tears to my eyes I was laughing so hard, loved the video. 😀


  22. That video reminds me of an ATM near my office. It asks you if you want a receipt, and the possible answers are “Sure!” and “No, Thanks”. I refuse to say “thanks” to a machine.

    Oh, and I have a voice-activated GPS in my car. We have this dialogue a lot:

    me: “Gas Stations”
    it: “System is showing Thai restaurant icons”
    me: “Gas Stations”
    it: “Pardon?”
    me: “Gas Stations”
    it: “Zooming in”
    me: “Gas Stations”
    it: “System is showing sport center icons”
    me: “GAS STATIONS!!!!!!”
    it: “System is showing gas station icons”

    It seems to understand me best when I’m really annoyed.


    • I’ve never wanted GPS for that very reason. I would have an accident while taking a swing at the bitch in the computer. These voice thingys bring out my aggressive side.

      But an ATM? Oh shit. (I always do say thank you automatically though, then I go “urrrghthtjh”.)


  23. I’m proud to say that I’ve seen (been) Americans who act like that when technology doesn’t work quite right.

    Pretty sure I’m stea- borrowing the video for next weeks foolishness…


    • You are more than welcome to stea-borrow it, Guap. I did! (Actually it was sent to me by my sister-in-law.)

      But I do get that frustrated. Not infrequently. I have to call the cable company this weekend and I am trying to work up the patience. Perhaps I will just shout “FREEDOM!” and all will be well.


  24. That’s hysterical! I’ve never heard of that show before… will have to Google and see what else I can find.

    I have the same problem whenever I call and have to give my date of birth. The machines always think I’m saying 1916. It’s very annoying.

    I have Siri on my phone; I’ve used it 3 times. Had no luck any of the three times. Siri and I are no longer speaking.


    • John, I didn’t realize that you were approaching 100! I am particularly impressed that at that advanced age you are so savvy technologically — I mean you blog!

      Suri hates me. My son uses her all the time. We can ask his phone a question and get the answer. We ask mine and we get something non-helpful. She is a bitch.


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