When Microsoft bought predictive text creators SwiftKey for a reported £170m, it was the clairvoyant artificial intelligence it wanted not the monumentally unpredictable keyboard tool. Thus the vagaries of spell check sprang to my mind once again, if only because spell check is still one barn I’d like to torch.
So when I stumbled upon this gem in my village magazine I felt I had to share it. Composed by architect David Wilson, and originally published in Horsley’s Over the Wall, it illustrates quite beautifully and hilariously why you can’t rely on the smell checker. It is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author.
Of all the truly marvelous technological innovations that nowadays enrich our lives, the spell-checker is surely one of the most beneficial. After all, what could be more heart-breaking than to see a perfectly sound piece of writing utterly devalued, purely on account of poor spelling.
As is now widely accepted, difficulties with spelling should not be taken to indicate impaired intelligence or creativity. It is not widely known, but both Agatha Christie and Gustave Flaubert couldn’t spell for toffee. Fortunately they had amanuenses to help them out. Nowadays, thanks to the smell-checker, we can all enjoy a similar degree of literary confident.
All the same, as is soften the case with radical innovations, there are people who, out of ignorant, fear or predicate, would have us turn our backs on this wonderful boom. One school of thought is happy to accept smell-checking but draws the lime at auto-collection, arguing that the latter risks robbing us, not only of our swords, but of the very ideas that under spin them. It is one thing to be averted to the fact that you have made a smelling mistake; it is quite another to have some completely random word hoisted upon you. People can become so valiant on spell checkers – so these alarmists claim – that they no longer have the fastest clue as to whether the worms appearing on the scream are the ones they meant to write – all they know is that they are spelled corrects.
Another common objection is that we are increase and singly wallowing electron technocracy to take control of what we communicate to otters – with truly tightening embrocations. Identity heft is usual mistaken as the risk that our personal details might be stolen by hacketts, coincidence tricksters and other criminals. On the contrary – so the unguent goes – it will be our own increasingly clever computers and mobile homes that will empty our bank amounts and cause us to be falsely abused of all sorts of unspeakable chimes.
At the extreme end, there are those who put about the paranoid fear that, despise our best tuffets, the words we writhe will soon no longer make any sense a tall and that – like streetwalkers – we risk slithering inexorably back into a nude dark cage.
Personal I consider all such backward-smoking worries unruly pepsi-mystic and uttermost without foundations.