Monday, April 18, 2011

Lost in Translation (or Searching for Todgers in Texas)

This weekend I searched for 'Chelsea Antiques Market', using Google voice search on TLOML's  fancy phone.
'Sex positions' it responded.

Really. Which is at least less obscure than the result I got when I used it to search for 'Aveda Santa Monica'.
'Penis Texas', came back the search term. With quite a few results, I might add.

This begs a couple of questions.
1. Is my English accent really so incomprehensible? (for more on how Google mangles voices into lunatic phrases, see this post by Hemingway Holly aka The Euro)
And 2. Doesn't Google work on an algorithm based on popular search terms and similar results? In which case, I have to ask, is 'penis texas' really so popular? Haven't these people heard of Craig's List's Casual Encounters?

I suppose it all boils down to the funny way we English speak English.

9 out of 10 Americans will, on hearing an English girl introduce themselves as Katie, say 'Hi Casey' in response.
There's something about that hard British 't' that they just can't handle. And presumably Casey (Kacey? KC? Kaycee?) is just as common a name here as the imminently more sensible and less made-up Katie.

At JFK recently I asked a kiosk lady for water. As in 'war-ter', English style. After she said 'huh?' and I repeated myself three times, I finally relented and said 'waarduh'. 'Oh, waarduh!' she said, handing me my Aquafina and rolling her eyes like I was the idiot. Harumph.

Since then I've started adjusting my accent, so now I always ask for waarduh. I'll know I've lost the battle entirely when I start adopting my totally unconvincing American accent for Google voice search too.

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