Have you ever written a message on Facebook or Twitter (or some other social media site) only to have autocorrect kick in, changing out that carefully selected word for something that is completely wrong? What about using MS Word or some other word-processing system? Now, for the tricky question: how many times have you actually just misspelled something but blamed autocorrect? Be honest. You know you’ve done it at least once or twice.
Today, I thought I’d pay homage to some of the masterpiece moments of autocorrect and just plain bad spelling.
My first experience with autocorrect
I was first introduced to the autocorrect algorithms with my old Philips Savy phone. It was the phone my husband bought for me when I was pregnant with our son and had gone back to university to study for a PhD. At the time, my husband worked for the MDF plant out in Rangiora, which was a long-distance call from central Christchurch. The university had placed tollbars on all the phones, so I actually had no way of contacting my husband from the campus. I had this fear that I would go into labour and I wouldn’t be able to reach my husband. So, he bought me the cellphone.
Well, five years later, I was still using the same phone. (They don’t make electronic goods like they used to — that’s for sure.) I was texting a friend to see if she could babysit for me and all she sent back was LOL. I was confused — until I looked at the message that she had received on her phone.
I need a babyshitter for Thursday night.
I kid you not. I was flabbergasted and completely confused about how babysitter could suddenly grow an h. Out of curiosity, I decided to try it again, carefully flicking through the letters (the old style of hit the same key multiple times to get the different letters of the alphabet). I hit the space — and there it was. Autocorrect had changed babysitter out and replaced it with babyshitter. My girlfriend and I still laugh about it all these years later.
However, that is not the only whopper that autocorrect has come up with. There has been the tasty meal of placenta that really should have been polenta. Earthquakes apparently can measure a 5.6 on the titty scale (Richter scale). And don’t forget about the black window spiders that get their name because they eat their see-through mates?
If you search the internet, you can find hundreds of examples where autocorrect has created hilarious moments of frustration for poor unsuspecting users. I know I’ve suffered my fair share for throw-the-phone-across-the-room moments due to autocorrect beast.
Autocorrect has its uses
For a writer, autocorrect can be handy too. I’ve lost count of the number of times when my fingers have gotten ahead of my brain and the had become hte. There is a very good reason why I’ve lost count — because the autocorrect in my word-processing program deals with it for me.
Recently, I’ve found myself doing more and more through the desktop or laptop. My Android tablet might have an autocorrect beast embedded in the system, but it turns out that when I use my external bluetooth keyboard, the system stops working all together. And with no built-in spellchecker…
Confession time: I might be a freelance editor, but I actually like my red squiggly lines. I spend so much time flipping between US and UK English that I sometimes get confused. The classic for this one was when I was in high school. I had to write an essay during my chemistry exam on the properties of sulphur. I started the essay with sulphur (the UK spelling), then partway through flipped to sulfur (the US spelling). By the end, I was so confused that I just used S (the international chemical symbol).
Aluminium and Aluminum do the same to me. I look at those two words and, even now, scratch my head. I only have one solution — it’s called a dictionary.
And there are some words that it doesn’t matter how you spell them, they still look wrong. Someone please explain to me what happened to the p sound in pneumonia.
What about those moments when you know you just spelled something incorrectly because you were in such a rush, but you blamed it on autocorrect when someone called you out on it? I will gladly admit that the deliberate typo in this post’s title had originated as exactly that.
The deliberate spelling mistake in the title
I was writing a post on Facebook (many years ago now) and had written that I was a gluten for punishment. I hit the enter key and didn’t think much of it — until another writer called me out on it. It was actually nasty what she had said about the typo, but to save face, I blamed it on the autocorrect on my tablet. Never mind that I was actually using my computer when I wrote the original message. But blaming autocorrect not only saved me from an awkward situation, but it sparked a whole conversation about how auto-correct has produced some doozies.
I’ve noticed that while many people still blame autocorrect for some beauties, others have started to blame fat fingering. Let’s face it: many of us are now using qwerty keyboards on dinky touchscreens. The keyboard on my phone is 2″ to 3″ across. So many times, I hit the wrong letter and autocorrect fixes my mess.
Depending on who I’m talking to, I’ll be extra diligent to reread my messages before I hit send. Some of my friends are not afraid to correct my fat fingering (annoying as hell, but they still do it).
Yes, I am a glutton for punishment, but in certain circles (the autocorrect circles), I’m also a gluten.
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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2017