Sunday, October 5, 2008

I stopped at the taco stand for a currito.

Published October 5, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

We have become a nation of text messagers. Everywhere you go, you see people, cell phones in hand, tapping out messages to friends and family. I’m not stranger to the text message phenomenon. Frankly, I love it. It’s the most convenient form of communication since talking! If you haven’t started texting yet, I highly recommend it. Just make sure you’re ready for the somewhat unsettling addition of “predictive text” to your life.

My first experience with this came at two in the morning when a former coworker (a nurse) sent me a text message that read, “Hey, I quit my job! You need to call of in the morning and tell of who did off pass.” I was perplexed. I responded that his text didn’t make any sense and received an even more perplexing reply: “Sorry. Under the influence of T-9.” I thought he was telling me he was on drugs, and I actually cried a little and wondered what I could do to help him..

A quick call to my sister the next morning set the record straight. T-9 is just a harmless program in a cell phone that predicts the words you’re trying to type based on the sequence of numbers you’ve pushed. My friend was trying to say, “You need to call me in the morning and tell me who did med pass.” Because “of” and “me” are both produced when typing 6-3, and since “of” is more often used, the predictive text program automatically wrote that when my friend meant to write “me.” Same thing with “off” and “med,” or 6-3-3.

Once you learn how to use predictive text, you’ll find it’s, for the most part, user friendly and convenient. The occasional substitution isn’t a problem if you’re vigilant. Any time I type the word me, I now automatically press the down button to avoid the “of” mistake my friend made. I also know that when I try to type “if,” my phone will type “he,” and when I try to type “no,” my phone will type “on.”

After nearly three years of using predictive text, I’ve made some interesting discoveries:

* Predictive text can not predict every word…unless you’re speaking Old English. Through extensive study, I’ve found that my phone knows every old English word I can possibly think of, including thee, thee, maketh, methinks, begat, begot, betwixt and betrothed . It seems the makers of predictive text assume its users are all texting each other about the upcoming Renaissance Fair. This fact becomes even more interesting when you realize your phone does NOT know words like spinach, pretzel, burrito, and clarinet. (When you try to type the latter two, the phone dreams up strange food item called a currito and a mythical instrument called a blarinet .)

* Predictive text does not do compound words…except when it does. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. I can type backpack and backyard but not backpedal. I can type checkbook but not checkup. Cupboard, but not cupcake. Landlord, but not landmine. My personal favorite: I can type daydream. I can type dreaming. But I can not type daydreaming. Apparently, my phone wants my head out of the clouds. Any attempt at typing daydreaming produces the obvious insult, “daydreamhog.”

* Predictive text is often thought-provoking. It’s interesting to note that when typing game, you are also typing hand. When typing kiss, you also type lips. Typing book lets you also type cool. Typing good also types home. And when you try to type karaoke, your phone gives up right after it types Japan.

*Predictive text is neutral when it comes to commonly misspelled words, so, don’t think it will save you from yourself. It will let you write receive AND recieve, tomorrow AND tomorow , separate AND seperate, and even definitely AND definately. Either the makers of predictive text didn’t know the correct spellings or they thought the majority of the population would get angry when their phones wouldn’t allow them to spell the words they way they always had.

Somebody somewhere is very glad he can put down his blarinet and go have a currito.