You see this universal symbol for eye roll? Yeah, apparently when you speak Southern, Siri thinks you are saying ‘i roll’. No, I’m not joking. This actually happened. I was trying to text my husband so I hit that cute little microphone icon thingie for talk to text and said, “eye roll”. I was given ‘i roll’. Then, I tried again and said, “eye roll emoji” but I was given ‘i roll emoji’. Are you freakin’ kidding me? That’s when it truly hit me, bless her heart, Siri can’t speak Southern.
I’ll admit, my friends and I have known this fact for quite some time. I text a lot. It’s my main form of communication. I love the talk to text feature because I can press a button or even say a phrase like ‘text Bob bring home milk’ and it types it for me. It’s really awesome for when my hands are too busy or messy to peck away on that virtual keyboard (RIP Blackberry and your awesome real keyboard). The result is usually something completely off the wall and slightly funny but nowhere near what I was trying to say. Then, I end up having to explain to my friends that Siri hates my Southern accent and didn’t understand what I was saying. The ‘i roll’ event got me to thinking. I wonder if other dialects have this trouble? Do people with heavy New York or Boston accents have this problem? What about the Midwest nasal twang? And, God help those who have accented English from other countries. I can’t even imagine what their talk to text messages look like. What’s more, according to everything I can find online, Siri supposedly understands English (United States, United Kingdom, Australia) as well as several other languages. I wonder if people in the UK have the same problems we do? A heavy Cockney accent sounds nothing like the Queen’s proper English accent.
In an age where computers and artificial intelligence is worming its way into every facet of our lives, you’d think all those smart techie people could build an electronic personal assistant with some dialect training. I mean, Siri has somewhat witty comebacks when you insult her. Alexa (yeah, I’m calling out Amazon too) has that creepy laugh and she’ll even mimic animal and fart noises if you ask her. Go ahead and try it, I’ll wait. Hysterical, right? I mean how hard can it be to hire a few linguists and write some code? Hell, I’ll offer them recordings of my speech for free (or they can give me some cool free tech) and they can base the Southern dialect off of my voice. I sound just like I type. I’ve lived all over the South. I can replicate the Tennessee long I just as good as the lazy tongue of the Coastal Carolinas and parts of Georgia. Send these electronic personal assistants back to school and teach them to speak more dialects and while you’re at it fix Alexa’s creepy laugh.