Spell Checkers, Speech-to-Text, Digital Assistants, and Other Things I Hate #socs

I hate spell check. Really. Especially the wiggly red lines that appear under words that it claims aren’t spelled right. They annoy me no end. They usually end up under all the proper names, because the damn spell check doesn’t realize they are proper names. And, if I ever meet the clown that came up with autocorrect, I’m going to beat him over the head with The Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary, the ginormous one that’s about ten inches thick.

See, I went to Catholic school, where, as I think I mentioned, the nuns taught us that misspelled words are nails in the Hands of Jesus. If we learned one thing, it was how to spell. They also stressed the importance of spelling people’s names correctly as a sign of respect. If that’s so, I get disrespected all the time, because I can stand there with a clerk and spell it out “H-O-L-T-O-N” and have them spell it “Horton,” or “Holten,” or something. See, the problem with my name is, the final “o” is pronounced as a schwa, which I guess means it could be anything. That doesn’t explain “Horton,” but… whatever.

Anyway, whenever I get a new computer, or a new word processing program, when I start seeing words underlined in red, it’s my signal to figure out how to turn off spell check. And autocorrect has to go; I would rather send something out with a misspelling than have it turned into something that conveys a meaning I didn’t intend.

Joey had a post a week ago yesterday about talk-to-text and how much she hates it. I could sympathize: I tried working with MacSpeech and Naturally Speaking, thinking that would make things less of a hassle to write, given that I type with one hand. I almost had another stroke trying to use them, and finally said “f*ck this noise” and went back to typing with one hand.

Joey was talking specifically about Siri, Apple’s “digital assistant” that they’ve been installing on all iPhones and iPads for a couple of years. When I installed Sierra (the latest version of Mac OS, which anyone who uses it realizes is just Unix under the pretty interface), Apple was very proud of the fact that Siri was now available for Mac OS and was now installed, along with their speech-to-text word processing software. Well, just because it’s installed doesn’t mean I have to use it, so I figured I’d just take the icon off the dock and ignore it. Easy-peasy, right? Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Anyway, I’m working on my desktop a couple of weeks ago, and the thing starts going slower than whale dung, and I’m like “what the f*ck is going on?” I bring up the activity monitor and I see that the Apple dictation software is taking about ten percent of the CPU cycles. “I’m not using the dictation software!” I exclaimed, and tried to kill the task, only to have it come back. I go and look at what’s eating up memory, and I see that roughly a quarter of the physical memory is being taken up by Siri and speech-to-text. I DuckDuckGo “turn off dictation mac sierra” and found that there were some options I had to turn off in my System Preferences to get rid of them. Problem solved.

Dear Apple, next time you decide to do me a favor, do me a favor: don’t do me a favor. TYVM.

I never had to mess with Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant, since I got rid of Windows 10, which never worked anyway. That was really nosy, anyway, reporting everything I did to the mothership in Redmond, Washington. The best decision I made was to install Linux Mint on my laptop.

Anyway, I get up a couple of mornings ago, and there’s a message on my Kindle Fire that Alexa was now installed on it after the upgrade. You know what I did first, right? Found out how to disable it and did so, along with removing the Home icon to a group called “Sh*t I never use and can’t uninstall.” Which brings up another issue: what’s the deal with software that gets installed on my computer or other device that I can’t remove? Really, if I’m not going to use iTunes on my iPhone, why can’t I ditch it? It’s my phone or computer or whatever; if the stuff is in my way and taking up memory I want to reclaim, why can’t I?

Now, to bring things back to the original prompt, “spell,” here’s Screamin’ Jay Hawkins with “I Put A Spell On You.”


Stream of Consciousness Saturday is brought to you each week by Linda Hill and this station. Now a word from Milton Bradley’s Scrabble, America’s good-time game!

21 thoughts on “Spell Checkers, Speech-to-Text, Digital Assistants, and Other Things I Hate #socs

  1. Excellent post!
    I, too, despise the stuff I can’t remove! It’s my phone! I bought it! I’m paying for service! And paying for storage! GAH!
    Cortana. Pfft. No way.


    1. The more I mess with iOS, Android (especially the version that runs on the Kindle Fire), and Mac OS, the more I appreciate Linux, where you can pretty much install and uninstall anything. And as far as I’m concerned, Windows 10 is the AOL of operating systems. It takes what you want to do and swaddles it in so much unnecessary crap it’s almost unusable.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s very Windows-like (Windows 7, that is). The hard part is deciding which distribution (“distro”) to use. The two easiest to learn are Ubuntu and Linux Mint.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I just dictated almost 900 pages using Dragon software. I felt so accomplished when I was done… Until I started reading it. Holy AutoCorrect! I knew something was wrong when so many of the sentences ended with the words “Western Mark”…instead of a question mark🙄


    1. They say it works better once you train it. As Wayne from “Wayne’s World” says, shyeah right, and blue monkeys are gonna fly outta my butt… There are people who swear by it, but I’m convinced they’re a minority. If you speak standard, unaccented English with perfect diction, maybe — MAYBE — most of it comes out right, but how many people does that describe?


  3. I dislike spell check and autocorrect since I spell colour the correct way not the American way…or favourite. Anyhoo, my name say so much in regards to how people misspell it never mind saying it. I even have had a couple of people tell me I spelled my name wrong! The scrabble commercial is funny. I couldn’t help but think of old age homes who have no clue how to spell any longer


    1. There should be a way to change the dictionary that spell check uses so you get the British spellings, though I don’t know where it is offhand. When I was doing Ghostletters years ago, I had a character named Mary Cecelia, and spell check would have a cow over it because the “right way” to spell it was Cecilia. Well, no, MC’s parents spelled it the other way, which is a different but perfectly acceptable spelling…


  4. John, I have Windows 10, but never use Cortana. I go straight to Google. Google knows everything!

    I’m not high on auto correct either, especially on my phone. The auto correct while I’m texting drives me crazy! Please just let me say what I want to say and don’t worry about the spelling! The other thorn in my side is autofill when I email someone with Outlook (at work). More than once, I’ve sent emails to the wrong person, but thankfully nothing life-threatening. I love it when it works, hate it when it doesn’t.


    1. Keep in mind that, just because you don’t talk to Cortana, she’s still gathering information about you and passing it on to Microsoft. There’s a switch somewhere where you can tell it to stop learning about you. Flip that switch and she goes away and leaves you alone.

      It’s a good idea to use something other than Bing, which works in tandem with Cortana and gathers information about you that ends up in Bill Gates’s grubby little hands, but Google is almost as big of a snoop (maybe bigger). I use DuckDuckGo, which promises not to track you and seems to deliver results comparable to Google. Just a thought.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Boy, you’re rolling today! I have told Loretta several times that you can tell John Holton’s mood by reading his blogs. ( This is interesting; I typed “Holton’s” and spell check changed it to “Hilton’s.” ) Anyway, speaking of the spelling of last names, think of the many ways to spell “Connelly.” – Connolly, Conley, Connelley, etc, etc. I have seen them all. The most unusual was an old football player that spelled it Khonlee.


    1. It all depended on who checked them in at Ellis Island how it got spelled. The Eastern European names really threw them. A lot of the immigration agents could hardly spell, either.


  6. I don’t know what’s worse, stuff you can’t remove, reports to the mothership or the nuns telling you that misspelled words are nails in the hands of Jesus. I wish I could bring my computer to you.


  7. Try getting Bohrer across to retail clerks and plumbers, and anyone else you talk to on the phone. I’ve half-joked for years I’m going to change it to Williams.

    Apple’s closed systems offer ease of use and a more robust defense against viruses and PUPs, but at the cost of applications you may not use. And Windows is its own Rube Goldberg self, a thick collection of stacked-up re-roofing that barely keeps leaks out of the house. It’s gotten better (I tolerate Win 10 on a tower thats too big for the desktop) but still includes Cortana, itself inconveniently unusable on a machine without a built-in microphone.

    Thanks for the tips on killing Siri in OS X. Yes, it would be nice to simply remove its code. But I suspect it’s integral, much like HTML browser code in Windows. We’re stuck with what is effectively bloatware.


  8. Well said. I have done battle with Siri and spell-check, but I do need the fundamental parts. I didn’t go to Catholic School. I think I was taught that Jesus wouldn’t sweat the small stuff. Ad for uninstalling unwanted software, it’s been a life-long mission for this Windows guy.


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