If you’ve been with me a while, you already know about my boundary-challenged microwave, and how the washing machine nearly pushed me over the edge. Now, if you can believe it, I have taken to arguing with my car’s navigation system.
The nav, which I like to call my GPS Escort — “GypsE” for short — is built into the dash. GypsE has a pleasant, unaccented feminine voice. I simply push the voice-command button, ask for Navigation, and she invites me to share my goals with her. “What state, please? For Canada, please say a province.” (It would save a great deal of time if I didn’t have to listen to the instructions every single time. Oh, well.)
GypsE then hands my request off to an assistant, who has prepared by making voice recordings of every possible syllable, plus numbers and such, and put them in a file. When called upon, she grabs the pertinent syllables, lines them up in order and plays them back. I refer to her as GypsE’s ReOrdered Syllable Enunciator, or “GypsE ROSE.” She probably means well, but besides having a mechanical-sounding voice, she sometimes has trouble understanding me.
First, before ROSE says anything, I give her the name of a state, town or street as GypsE directs. ROSE listens to my request and shows a list of names that I might possibly have meant. Often, the one I want is at the top of the list, followed by other reasonable choices. Like when I say “Dallas” The list will show “1. DALLAS,” and then “2. ALICE.” So far, so good — GypsE tells me to say a number, I tell her “One,” and we go from there. But some names are less straightforward. Many are of Spanish origin, or German or Czech. Unfortunately, GypsE ROSE is a bit of an “ugly American” — non-English words completely flummox her.
One fine morning I started out for an on-location interview at Fort Parker. I knew how to get there, but thought it might be nice to have a reminder when I got to the highway leading from the Interstate toward Mexia (pronounced “meh-hay-uh”). Since I never go that way, I was afraid of lapsing into auto-pilot and missing my exit.
GypsE and I established that, as usual, I was going somewhere in Texas. Then: “Please say the city name.”
“Meh-hay-uh,” I replied, with some foreboding but perfect diction. ROSE accepted the challenge and came up with:
3. ROCKDALE (How’d that get in there?)
I could feel my eyebrows go up as I glanced at the screen full of irrelevant names. “Please say a number from the displayed list…” GypsE, the boss, prompted me.
“What? No,” I sputtered. “I said ‘Meh-hay-uh!'”
GypsE tried to intervene. “Please say again.”
ROSE had me pinned, and she knew it. I backed up to “Please say the city name.” It felt all wrong but finally I gritted out, “Mex-ee-uh.”
ROSE smugly offered a list topped by “1. MEXIA” and “2. LEXINGTON,” which sound nothing alike once you know how the locals pronounce Mexia, whatever language it might come from. “One!” I barked. “Just remind me to exit.”
For another example, take the Spanish word “Grande,” correctly pronounced “Grahn-de.” If you tell ROSE you want “Grande Avenue,” she will think for a moment, then offer options like “1. ANDRE, 2. COTTONWOOD, 3. GARLAND.” If you ever in your life want to find Grande, you have to pronounce it “Grand.”
ROSE can’t even read her own writing. Sometimes she emphasizes the wrong syllables, pauses in the middle of a word or runs two words together, until you can hardly make out what she means.
Once when the directions called for a turn onto “Walnut Grove Road,” ROSE garbled out something like “Wall… nutGroveroad.” When driving with friends, I have requested an address on this road, just to get her to say the name for them, like a stupid pet trick.
“Uhl,” pronounced like “Yule,” comes out “Eeeuhghrll.” Every time.
I’ll close for now. I have to go see what GypsE ROSE does with the city of Natchitoches, Louisiana–which is, of course, pronounced “Nack-uh-dish.”
I’m not actually going there, and I don’t need ROSE to guide me. Now I’m just messing with her.
Thanks for reading,