Sunday, June 29, 2008
I was spellchecking my blog recently when the words “J.C. Penney” got flagged. I don’t expect all proper nouns to make it through, but guess what handy alternative the computer offered me? “Japanned.” This sounded weird and vaguely racist, so I looked it up online. If you are unfamiliar with the word, here goes:
Japan –verb (used with object)
to varnish with japan; lacquer.
to coat with any material that gives a hard, black gloss.
I think my spell-check is pretty snooty for suggesting an obscure lacquer technique from the 18th century. As if I don’t feel intellectually inferior enough spending my days writing about diarrhea and cellulite, now I have to be shown up by my own spell-check. Hello? I guess J.C. Penney is a bit too pedestrian for its tastes.
This reminded me of a crazy thing that happened to Tom with his Blackberry last summer. He was branching out business-wise and needed an office manager. He approached me, “Anna, do you know of a stay-at-home mom who might like to get into the business world by working part-time while her kids are in school?” When I stopped waving my arms yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!” I recommended my friend Jane for the job.
Before Jane’s interview, Tom got stuck on a business trip and needed to reschedule. He emailed her from the airport on his Blackberry. When he typed, “We are stuck in California,” his Blackberry immediately changed it to, “We are stuck in validpenis.” Tom was not aware that “validpenis” was an acceptable substitute for California, so he didn’t bother proofreading his message. For good measure, he signed off with, “I’ll contact you when I get back from “validpenis.”
Someone had put this little glitch in the Blackberry software. When Tom returned from, ahem, CALIFORNIA, he re-read the email and nearly died. He was mortified. I almost wet my pants laughing. We didn’t know what to do. Should he explain to Jane during the interview that he wasn’t a perv, or would it too inappropriate to even have the word “penis” floating around during a job interview? Should he pretend that nothing happened, in case she hadn’t read her email closely? Perhaps she would think it said, “Valparaiso?” I encouraged him to ignore the situation entirely.
Tom said nothing, and Jane took the job. About a month later, over a glass of wine, I broached the subject with Jane. She had, indeed, noticed the offending word right away when she read her email.
For a few moments she stared at her computer screen with a serious case of the heebs. She lamented the fact that working for a weirdo wouldn’t be the best way to jumpstart her transition back into the workforce. She wondered how the wholesome See family could harbor such a sicko in its midst. She wondered how to break it to me, her good friend, that my hubby made Clarence Thomas look as tame as a beanie baby.
Then Jane did something I never would have thought of: she Googled “validpenis.” Jackpot. In an online chat about phones was mention of how this Blackberry keypad turned the word California to “validpenis.”
Whew! Technology got us into this crisis and technology quickly got us out. I don’t know whether today’s blog proves we are smarter than computers or they are smarter than we are, but when I spell-check it in a moment, I’m curious as to what choices it’s going to give for “validpenis.” California, perhaps?