Wednesday, 20 March 2019

When the machine knows more than you do. Or thinks it does.

That's the spell checker, in case you're wondering. Don't get me wrong, I love the little beast. I shudder to think what my manuscripts would look like without it, as I've never been able to spell, despite the efforts of numerous people to try to teach me. That's why my hand writing is so bad. If you can't read it, you can't tell me it's spelled wrong. The typing is a bit dodgy too. And don't get me started on the voice recognition software ...

But sometimes the spell checker gets just a bit full of itself. I find it fascinating to watch auto correct doing its thing on a jumble of letters and turning it into what I thought I was typing, but some times, no, sorry, that's not what I wanted. Sometimes that's OK, we can negotiate. Sometimes it's a pain.

People have asked me how Andrew Vitruvious, the hero of What Happens at Christmas, got his unusual surname. Well, the answer to that is, the spell checker chose it. Originally he was called Ventris, but the spell checker kept giving me Vitruvious, and in the end I gave in, and now I like it. It's different, to say the least.

That one worked out, but at the moment the spell checker and I are wrangling over what it thinks I meant and what I did mean, and I'm not giving up on this one. I can't, because this time it's not something I have a choice about. When writing about the Second World War - thesis, long story - the phrase 'heavy raid' makes sense. It's what I want to say. What I need to say. What I am saying. And I'm saying it quite often, it appears, the number of times we're arguing about it. (I can tell you all about the heavy bombing raids on Cardiff, if you have an hour or so. Oh, you don't want me to?) 

Unfortunately I keep typing 'heavy riad', which doesn't help, and spell checker doesn't know I'm writing about the Second World War and keeps wanting to change it to 'heavy rain', which is no good at all. Even when we both get it right, it doesn't give up. It keeps showing me the word highlighted in blue, to tell me it still doesn't approve. I keep telling it that's what I want. And it still isn't listening. It thinks it knows better than I do.   

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