I DIDN'T SAY THAT

Whit Deschner

If you think technology will save us, think again. My word recognition program refuses to recognize me. I’ve told it a thousand times my name is Whit but always it calls me ‘with.’ Sure it boasts a bag of words but it scatters their phonetic sounds like Johnny Appleseed on a broadcasting mission. It even knows the word ‘grammar’ but has no idea of its meaning, let alone its context. It joins words with unscrupulous abandon. It pledges allegiance to no one or no concept. For example take the pledge of allegiance. As if there isn't enough controversy surrounding this issue here is my unprincipled monster’s rendition weighing in:

Pledge allegiance to the flagging United States of America into the puppets for which stands one nation ignited flirting justice for all.

For me this poses a dilemma. I use my word recognition program because I have Parkinson’s and I am losing my ability to type. But what I say is not what shows up on the screen. Am I responsible for this? What if Alberto Gonzales gets a hold of my hard drive?

Yet there is no use trying to attach headings onto its amoral compass. It is technology run amuck . Not that word recognition doesn’t possess it’s own HAL-like personality. But nothing is sacred. It even annihilates the Ten Commandments, which I best not divulge here other than to say that with awry humor it renders ‘Thy shalt not commit adultery’ into ‘Michelle recommended only.’ The only thing it doesn’t give me is her phone number.

And what about poetry? Word recognition knows no beauty. It turns William Wordsmith’s Daffodils into Data Bills while Tennyson's Light Brigade charges Happily happily happily onward. And not even a sadistic bonsai artist could twist Joyce Kilmer's Trees in such an unseen manner. It’s poetry guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes, although not the usual kind. Here’s my computer’s collaborated version:

I think that I shall never see
Up one lovely as a tree
A tree is hungry mouth is pressed
Against your sweet flowering breast
A tree that lets it go all day
And left her leafy arms to pray
The tree that may in summer where
Vannesa Robbins in her hair
Bond is blossoming snow inflamed
Linda Bentley lives with rain
Paul Miller made fools like me
But only God can make a tree

I haven’t a clue who Vannesa Robbins, Linda Bentley or Paul Miller might be other than prodigy of genetic and computer codes breeding unchecked in some programmer’s basement. Certainly not someone wholesome like Julie Andrews who although might perfectly enunciate, would only have her words slaughtered through this evil technological advancement. So what chance do people with foreign accents and speech impediments have? Can you imagine the modern remake of My Fair Lady? Eliza Doolittle would have smoke streaming from the computer’s portals, hurricanes would blow Spain’s rain from here to breakfast until Professor Higgins would at last address the screen with a cricket bat shortly before loosing it altogether going on a random killing spree.

And yet some days the program acts better than others. Just last week it almost dictated a letter perfectly. That is until I got to the end. I signed off, ‘Best Regards, Whit.’

Only it didn't call me Whit. As usual, it called me “with”

So I said, ‘I said Whit!”

And it displayed, “I said With.”

I yelled: “I said, Whit, dammit!”

“I said with dammit.” It replied.

“Whit Whit Whit!” I screamed

“With with with.” Read the screen.

Words, I thought hyperventilating. They are only words. I needed to relax. Calm down. Go read. I picked up Alice in Wonderland.