I suppose it’s possible that I have a mentally challenged cellphone.
I can supposedly do voice-to-text, but the results are not always what I wanted. For some reason my phone – which I have named “Ernesto Telefono” – can’t seem to get my wife’s name right.
Granted, “Sararesa” is a pretty unique name; however, she goes by Sara. It’s a name “Ernesto” just refuses to recognize. The closest he gets to it is to write “Sarah.” I could probably live with this, except “Ernesto” has only typed “Sarah” once.
Usually “Ernesto” translates my wife’s name as “Satin,” “Savage” or “Santa.” Santa? I should be glad it’s not Satan, I suppose.
I was using voice-to-text while chatting with my sister, Hilary. I told her I was “waiting for Sara to get home for lunch.” Instead “Ernesto” typed “waiting for Santa to get fully unlocked.”
What does that even mean? Was Santa wearing fuzzy handcuffs as part of some kinky candy-cane fetish?
And who would be cruel enough to lock Santa up? Well, maybe the Burgermeister Meister Burger. But no one else would. Not even the Grinch, and he’s a mean one!
Recently I was using voice-to-text and I said “Navajo,” which my phone wrote as “Now who!”
Like the Now Who codetalkers?
That’s when it struck me that the problem might not be Ernesto Telefono’s – but mine.
Was it possible that my so-called New England accent was causing the problem?
I run into people in Arizona all the time who ask about my accent. I think to myself, “Accent? YOU have the accent.” But, being polite, I mentioned that I’m originally from Rhode Island. To which some people smile and say, “Oh, I’ve been to Long Island.”
I was talking to a cashier in Seligman, Ariz., recently and she did the whole Long Island thing, and I repeated, “No, I’m from RHODE island.”
She nodded. “Oh, Goat Island – where is that?”
The more I thought about it, the more it dawned on me that my accent was a problem!
I recalled a couple of incidents from my time as a reporter for the News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla.
I came back from a strange interview and asked a copy editor if the woman I had spoken with was a weirdo. He said,
“Why, are you interested in her?”
It turned out he thought I was asking if she was a widow!
Then there was the time I was investigating a convention center called Harborside. I was having trouble getting answers to some questions when I received a call in the newsroom. A male voice told me he wanted to talk to someone about Harborside – but he was scared.
I arranged to meet with him privately – convinced that he knew something seedy about the Harborside.
There was something about that way he pronounced “Harborside” that seemed off, so I asked him to repeat himself. That’s when I realized he hadn’t said “Harborside” at all, and was talking about a homicide!
That made me recall another time when my accent might have been the source of the trouble. I was living in an apartment building when this woman knocked on my door. She was looking for a neighbor who lived one floor down from me.
“Does so-and-so live here?” she asked.
“Below me,” I replied.
Now I know why she slapped my face and stormed away.
John Christian Hopkins, an awardwinning writer, lives in Sanders, Ariz., with his wife, Sararesa. He is a veteran journalist – but never an enemy of the people – and a former nationally syndicated columnist for Gannett News Service. He is the author of many books, including “Carlomagno: Adventures of the Pirate Prince of the Wampanoag.” He is a member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island.