CRAWFORD | With national spelling bee over, a lament about autoc - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | With national spelling bee over, a lament about autocorrect

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Vanya Shivashankar, left, 13, of Olathe, Kan., and Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, of St. Louis, hold up the championship trophy as co-champions after winning the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Thursday, May 28, 2015, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo) Vanya Shivashankar, left, 13, of Olathe, Kan., and Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, of St. Louis, hold up the championship trophy as co-champions after winning the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Thursday, May 28, 2015, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Another Scripps National Spelling Bee has come and gone — this one ending in a tie, which no doubt leaves us all dissatisfied, as Americans.

But that's not the point of this column. I have another point of dissatisfaction with spelling. While magnificent feats of spelling were on display by all the participants in the spelling bee final, the rest of us remained under the curse of a spelling handicap not of our own making.

Autocorrect.

Used to be, the only time I had to grit my teeth at autocorrect was when I sent a text message. By now, you've all seen the web sites about the greatest autocorrect “fails.” You know, the guy who is trying to type that he likes “indie” films only to realize he has sent a message that said “indecent.”

Or the woman who texts, “I'm with a clown, call you back.” Then quickly corrects, “CLIENT. I'm with a client.”

In the end, autocorrect will make clowns of us all, because it is creeping into other areas of our writing.

Autocorrect sprawl is a killer. First, I only had to deal with autocorrect in text messages, and I didn't like it, but texting is such a small part of my communication that I could live with it as a kind of amusing annoyance. Then it found its way into my phone email, and again, I could deal with it. I know that there are, by now, millions of accomplished thumb typists out there. I am not one of them. The main difference between us and the apes is opposable thumbs. As I watch people run into each other on the street because they're texting and walking, I wonder if the apes aren't soon to have the upper hand.

Still, in one-to-one communication, the occasional autocorrect faux pas is funny, even welcome on a bad day.

But when it starts to intrude on communication with the masses, I start to worry. And that's what's happened now that autocorrect has found its way into my laptop and word-processing programs.

It wanted me to call DeVante Parker by the first name “Deviant.” Without fail. All season. Often it made the change without me realizing.

The Triple Crown chase has been made perilous by its insistence that Bob Baffert is Bob Buffers.

It tells me that Clemson is “Lemon.” It wants to change “U of L” to UFO. It's how you've nearly read stories about the newly elected Hall of Fame coach at Kentucky, John Caliper. Or Louisville football coach Bobby Pertain.

I'm told by people who have done the math that autocorrect saves us more than it makes us wrong. But where does it get off changing “too” to “to?” Or “by” to “buy?” That's happened.

Now, some smart-guy computer types are going to tell me, “You know, you can turn that off.” And they're right. And I have. But every time the software updates, the autocorrect comes back, and before I realize it I'm writing a story about Louisville quarterback Reggie Bonbon, not Bonnafon.

I need some chocolate. 

And it's not just spell-check. A recently upgraded interface to post stories on WDRB.com is so unintuitive that it flags perfectly correct words and, if I don't watch very carefully, will split them into words that do not exist, or worse, replace them with other words entirely.

It wanted me to change the Preakness Stakes into the “Realness” Stakes, which I'll admit was clever, if not correct. 

And it, too, had a take on Bob Baffert. It told me he should be Bob Baffler. For a minute, my mind wandered to a new white-haired, sunglass-wearing Batman villain. “I don't know, Robin, I all of a sudden feel strangely uncertain.”

Except that my autocorrect just changed “sunglass” to “snuggles.” And now I have the image of that fabric softener bear. In sunglasses. On a horse.

You see what it is doing to us? This is downfall of civilization stuff.

My kids grudgingly go along with the need to learn spelling, but deep down they know, autocorrect and spell check will have their backs.

Until it has their bags.

I appreciate these dedicated kids who make it to the national round of the spelling bee. And I wonder if they, too, struggle with autocorrect. One of the finalists typed the words he was given on an imaginary keyboard. He should be thankful he didn't have imaginary autocorrect. 

It's a problem that in the real world these days, even if you type the right word, you may publish the wrong one if you're not careful.

Good for those kids, and everyone, who values correct spelling. Too bad our technology is ruining it.

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