New voice transcription feature in Google Docs censors (some!) swearwords

Google Docs announced today that you can now create documents using your voice.  And of course, like any good linguist, I immediately went to try to stump it. It’s pretty good, actually — it recognized both pronunciations of “gif” and “aunt” in the contexts “animated ___” and “uncle and ___” although it tended to assume that I might have the bit/bet merger, which I most emphatically do not, and thus presented me with a few transcriptions that felt like odd candidates to me.

But then I tried swearwords and hit the fucking jackpot. Continue reading

Burn in 7734, you Arsenic Sulfur

Since Strong Language launched, I’ve been cursed. I am seeing swears everywhere. I am hearing swears everywhere. I am constantly thinking about swears and I am swearing about swears. I’m dreaming swears. I’m conjuring up swears where there aren’t even swearwords. While it’s no coprolalia, it is a fucking shitshow. But this is nothing new.

As kids, we capsize calculators: 58008 is flipped into “boobs” or 7734, “hell.” As if charting sweara incognita, we scour maps for Beaverlick, Kentucky or Fucking, Austria. Phonebooks are prank fodder: Mike Hunts, in all their Simpsonian glory, have long unlisted their numbers. Phone numbers are curse codes: It didn’t take long for people to discover that the Obamacare hotline, 1-800-318-2596, dials up some choice words, if we decipher the telephone keypad.

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